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Saudi Arabia launches Regional Geological Survey Programme

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Global Mining Review,

In a virtual signing ceremony launched from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, headed by Bandar Al-Khorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources and Chairman of the Board Directors of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), one contract and three contract awarding documents were signed as the start of the ambitious Regional Geological Survey Programme (RGP). The signing was between SGS and multiple world-renowned partners: Sander Geophysics Arabia Ltd. (SGAL), Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics Co., the China Geological Survey, and a Consortium of the United Kingdom’s International Geoscience Services Ltd (IGS) and the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK).

“This is an exciting start to the data-gathering effort that forms the fundamental basis for the RGP, which, in turn, is key to the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision that aims at transforming the mining sector into the third pillar of Saudi Arabian industry,” said Al-Khorayef.

During this initial phase of the RGP, the SGS will focus on surveying and mapping some 600 000 km2 of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in western Saudi Arabia over the next 6 years, in a bid to better understand the existence and distribution of mineral resources in that area and provide a valuable database of geological knowledge to future mining investors and operators.

The SGS has confirmed that as per the signed contracts, SGAL, a joint venture based in Al-Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia, will provide an airborne geophysical survey of block 1 of the Arabian Shield for a total contract value of 71 883 079 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$19 million).

The other three contracts awarded in the ceremony include a deal with the South African Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics Co. to provide airborne geophysical survey of blocks 2 and 3 of the Arabian Shield, for a total contract value of 96 020 044 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$26 million), a contract with the China Geological Survey to provide geochemical survey throughout the entire Arabian Shield area, for a total contract value of 201 167 857 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$54 million), and a contract with IGS and GTK, who will be overseeing technical aspects of the RGP, ensuring the quality of operation and produced data for a total contract value of 185 437 500 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$49.5 million).

The SGS has also affirmed that the main goal of launching the RGP initiative is to build on the efforts exerted in these geophysical and geochemical surveys, and in developing geophysical maps to produce detailed digital geological maps of the Arabian Shield area, that accurately reflect the types, locations, and quantities of mineral resources in the area.

These maps will be a solid, clear and reliable foundation for investment or operational decisions in the mining sector, and, accordingly, enhance the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources – which are estimated to be valued at approximately US$1.3 trillion – to contribute to diversifying the resources of the national economy. The mining sector will then be able to raise its contribution to government revenues from approxiamtely 5 billion riyals in 2015 to 14 Billion riyals by 2030, and its contribution to the GDP from 64 Billion riyals in 2015, to around 240 Billion riyals in 2030. It is also expected to add 220 000 new jobs to the 150 000 jobs currently in the sector.

Responding to a question about the outcome of the RGP, Al-Mudaifer said: “Through these global collaborations, the first leap has been taken. We know there is such great mineral potential within our kingdom, but this programme will give us an even greater understanding of the untapped mineral resources of our country.”

Talking about the ceremony and the RGP, Dr Wadee Kashghari, the leader of the RGP initiative in SGS, said: “I am glad and proud to see our efforts to build such a strong and effective partnership come to fruition and I am confident that I will be prouder and a lot happier when I see the invaluable data that we will collect, analyse and make public over the next 6 years.”

Stephan Sander, SGAL’s Co-President, added: “We have a decades-long history of working within the Kingdom, but this is the largest, boldest project so far. We are glad to be a part of it.”

Simon Bosch; CEO of Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics Co., commented: “It is a pleasure to be working with the SGS as they enhance their knowledge of the Kingdom’s mineral resources through the RGP.”

The Chinese Vice-Minister of Natural Resources, President of China Geological Survey, Dr Zhong Ziran, said: “It is the beginning of a great cooperative relationship between the two sides and will surely open up new cooperative areas for both countries. We have full confidence in the all-round China-Saudi cooperation on geosciences in the future.”

The Managing director of IGS, Dr Peter Zawada, talked about his feelings regarding the selection of the consortium he represents to be the technical partner in the RGP.

“We are pleased and honoured to assist SGS and the Kingdom in one of the world’s largest integrated program of geodata acquisition. As a consortium we have assembled many specialists and experts and am confident that we will ably support SGS throughout the duration of the programme,” he said.

The virtual event was attended by representatives from each of the national and international geoscience entities, ministers, ambassadors, as well as officials from the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the SGS.

The RGP is a vital step in the Kingdom’s strategy to transform the mining sector into one that can compete with other giants of the economy, a key part of the country’s proposed development plan, Saudi Vision 2030.

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