DUBAI: The UAE has announced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags to take effect next year, the latest initiative aimed at reducing pollution in the oil-rich nation, according to AP.
The law would prohibit the import, production and circulation of such bags from Jan. 1, 2024, according to an announcement carried by the state-run WAM news agency. A similar ban would apply to plastic cups, plates and cutlery from Jan. 1, 2026.
The UAE, a major oil producer and the host of this year’s UN climate summit, has declared it aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Plastic bags are known as one of the most problematic kinds of garbage, polluting streets and waterways and harming birds and marine life.
Plastic takes decades to degrade and microscopic particles have been found inside the bodies of fish, birds and other animals.
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, imposed a ban on single-use plastics in June, and the futuristic city of Dubai began charging around 6 cents for such bags in July.
An estimated 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced on a yearly basis, according to the UN’s Environment Programme.
Other countries to take action in this area include China, which in 2021 banned restaurants throughout the country from providing straws made from the material and stores in the major cities from providing plastic shopping bags.
RIYADH: Speakers in a panel discussion held during the Future Minerals Forum stressed the importance of investing in human capital to better exploit the opportunities available in the fast-developing mining sector in the Kingdom.
“Mining is about accumulating resources,” said Brian Hosking, CEO of Gold and Mineral LLC. He deplored that while building material resources, people tend to ignore the key aspect of developing and nurturing human capital.
“We can’t operate a mine without people,” he said. He laid emphasis on ensuring the proper development of human resources for better results and productivity.
“We are about to start building a mine at the end of this year. That mine will employ around 600 people a large portion of those people will be Saudi nationals who have no experience and no skills and we will have to make sure that they are ready to take their place in the workforce,” he added.
Rana Abdullah Mohamed Zumai, a senior director of corporate communications and knowledge at the Saudi Geological Survey, highlighted the changing career perceptions among the Saudi youth.
“The new generation has a different mentality,” Zumai said. In the past people preferred job security over challenges unlike today’s youth, the official added.
Zumai said the Saudi youth, male and female, will find the mining sector exciting.
Rawan Al-Shehri, a master’s student at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’s chemistry department, gave media credit for the growing popularity of the mining sector among the Saudi youth.
“Media is very important in terms of glorifying mining (as a sector), even in the remote areas (of the Kingdom),” she said, citing the example of the fast-growing tourism sector, which is the cornerstone of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy away from oil revenues.
RIYADH: The critical role of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure — be it transport, logistics, or workforce — in transforming the Kingdom’s mining as well as other sectors was widely discussed and stressed during the Future Minerals Forum that concluded on Jan. 12 in Riyadh.
In a panel discussion titled “Incrementalism versus transformation,”, Saudi leaders eased concerns relating to the rapid transformations that the Kingdom is undergoing.
“The whole country is in transformation and for that, the logistics and transport sector have to enable all this transformation,” said the Minister of Transportation and Logistics Services, Saleh Al-Jasser.
The minister who sounded very confident said that today and more so in the future, transport and logistics are something that is going to have “a competitive edge” for the mining industry in Saudi Arabia.
“We currently enjoy a very strong infrastructure in Saudi Arabia when it comes to ports, railways, and roads.”
The Kingdom is currently ranked first when it comes to road connectivity and has an abundant capacity when it comes to ports.
“Our ports have been ranked on top of the list by the World Bank when it comes to handing TAUs,” said Al-Jasser, adding that King Abdullah economic city port was ranked No. 1.
Jeddah Islamic port was ranked eighth globally, moving up from the 53rd position in one year while King Abdulaziz port moved to 14 from 98.
He stressed that this big leap was feasible as a result of a process of vigorous and large-scale reforms that have taken place in the Kingdom — whether regulatory reforms, infrastructure reforms, or collaborations.
According to Al-Jasser, one of the game-changer projects in the national transportation and logistics strategy is the railway that connects east to west, “which will be a major enabler to the mining sector.”
“Road network is already very well built. It can support all the expansion that the mining sector is aspiring to achieve,” he added.
Another complementary factor to Saudi Arabia’s transformation is the growing workforce, largely backed by the recent increase in female labor participation.
“We actually achieved our aspirations of 2030 when it comes to the percentage of women employed in the sector,” the minister said.
“The vision 2030 number is 35 percent of the workforce to be composed of women by 2030. Today, that figure stands at 37 percent,” stated Osama Al-Zamil, the vice-minister for Industry Affairs.
He noted that Saudi Arabia registered a 14 percent increase in new Jobs last year, adding that the aim is to increase the number of factories in the Kingdom from 10,500 at present to 36,000 by 2035.
The minister insisted that there exists a “bright future in the mining sector” which is capable of transforming social benefit through the exploitation of $1.3 trillion worth of mineral resources.
Saudi leaders agreed that mineral resources are indispensable for the future of the Kingdom as these are expected to double the employment rate while providing tens of thousands of high-quality jobs, in addition to tracking mega investments worth $350 billion.
“One of the biggest strategies being launched by HRH Crown Prince last year was the national industrial strategy which will work hand in hand with the national mining strategy on exploiting those $1.3 trillion of mineral resources available in our country,” said Al-Zamil.
He pointed out that the ministry of industry and mineral resources is following the Crown Prince who said: “We have all the capabilities we need to enable a competitive and sustainable industry economy, from ambitious young talents and distinguished geographical location, rich natural resources, and the presence of leading national industrial companies.”
RIYADH: Global mining companies should raise funds through the Saudi stock exchange in order to fuel investment in the Kingdom, according to a leading private equity figure.
Speaking at the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, Ross Bhappu, partner and head of private equity at Resource Capital Funds, praised Saudi Arabia for creating a dependable environment for investors looking to become involved in the Kingdom’s mining sector.
He added that in order for the industry to really develop, more reform was needed to attract even greater investments.
“I would like to see the expansion of the Saudi stock exchange to where it is supportive of a general mining sector, I would like to see general mining companies come here and be able to raise money on the Saudi Stock Exchange and pump that money into an exploration within the country, within the Kingdom,” Bhappu said.
Bhappu praised the Kingdom’s commitment to the mining industry, and said: “The greatest risk and reason we wouldn’t invest in a place has to do with fiscal uncertainty, fiscal uncertainty is a killer of investment.
“When I look at what Saudi Arabia is doing it provides certainty for an investor.”
Bhappu’s comments came during a discussion on the current obstacles to securing exploration rights and mining licenses in order to properly operate within the Kingdom.
Ali Seed AlQahtani, the chief operating officer of Central Mining Holding, suggested ways to reduce the time between initial submission for a mining license and it being awarded.
He talked up the efficiency and speed of the government’s Absher platform, which allows Saudi citizens to access more than 350 services through a digital, and said an equivalent of this should be rolled out across the mining sector.
“We have more than nine government agencies that are involved during the licensing process, so have them in a portal and see where it’s forbidden to not do any exploration and do it as fast as Absher is doing it because it is a fight (against) competition and bureaucracy,” he added.
Abdullah Al Shamrani, CEO of Saudi Geological Survey, used his remarks in the discussion to argue the sector should learn from the oil and gas industries and invest in two things: “Technology and human capital”.
“Technology will help us in order to reduce the money spent and time,” he added.
His focus on human capital was echoed by Saleh Al Maghlouth, executive vice president of exploration and resource development Ma’aden, who highlighted the importance of training and guiding the next generation of professionals in the Saudi mining sector.
“If anything, what I really want to do and expedite as much as possible is building the local talent here and expertise,” he said.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is witnessing a spur in private sector companies entering the Kingdom’s mining sector, indicating strong growth in the mineral exploration industry, according to a top official.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, on Jan. 12, Suliman Al-Mazroua, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, said that the long-term strategic plans of the Kingdom in the mining sector have started showing positive results.
“More importantly, the appetite of the private sector to join the mining industry — that is what matters to us. We see a lot of newcomers joining the mining sector. It shows the appetite and the real opportunity they are seeing in this sector. Mining has never been as popular as it is now,” said Al-Mazroua.
He added: “For us to achieve our goals, we must have long-term plans. And this is definitely what Vision 2030 has done for us. With long-term plans, we are achieving our targets.”
The CEO pointed out that events like Future Minerals Forum are reshaping the mining sector in Saudi Arabia, as “it helps attract more private companies to enter the Kingdom and operate in the mineral exploration industry.”
Expressing his excitement about the development of the forum from its first version last year, Al-Mazroua said the event is seeing almost double on everything. “Double on number of deals around the private sector, and double the number of attendees. More than 130 countries contributed to this forum, more than 200 speakers, and more than 13,000 attendees,” he said.
Al-Mazroua further pointed out that NIDLP signed 27 memorandum of understanding during the forum, and added that “this number could be even more upon the completion of the event.”
He went on and said that NIDLP has launched more than 50 initiatives just for mining, while the total number of combined initiatives in mining, industry, logistics, and energy stands at 300.
“We are just at the beginning of mining potential in Saudi Arabia, and we will be seeing more to come. We have started seeing the results already; the best two years. We are seeing the number of licenses compared to the full ten years is almost the same. So, what we have done in two years is equal to ten years of historical data,” he added.
Al-Mazroua noted that the Kingdom’s Mining Partnership Council will help the government to get feedback from mining companies, and it will help achieve the highest potential results from the private sector.
“Vision 2030 is all about continuous feedback and continuous enhancement. Having this council with the private sector is to ensure that we have a feedback process to the government to keep improving the process, improving the ease of doing the mining in Saudi, improving how to integrate mining with the logistic industry and energy, and making sure that we achieve the highest potential possible,” he noted.
Al-Mazroua added: “We will be inviting members from the private sector on a monthly basis to review with them what we are doing and how we can improve our performance.”
On the third and final day of the event, during a panel discussion, Al-Mazroua said that bringing different sectors under one umbrella is crucial for the development of the mining industry in Saudi Arabia.
“Integration is the key to the development of the mining sector. We have a program in NIDLP, where the main job is to integrate the four sectors; mining, industry, logistics and energy,” said Al-Mazroua.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Astra Mining plans to add four more factories in the next five to seven years with an investment that can reach up to SR1.2 billion ($319 million), revealed the company’s CEO.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, Ali Al-Jabrah said the company has land measuring 92,000 square meters which can take up to five factories.
“Of course, this will help in efficient production and cost reduction because we will use the same resources, management, and general cost in the same location,” he said.
Founded in 2011, Astra Mining currently operates out of a factory in Al Kharj Industrial City which produces calcium oxide, calcium hydroxide, and dololime.
He disclosed that the expansion plans will require an investment ranging from SR800 million to SR1.2 billion, in addition to the amount invested so far.
The company’s expansion will also allow it to introduce new product lines that will depend on the mineral resources provided.
“Acquiring the mines is already under process. We have more than 30 mining applications, some of them have already started operations while others are still under exploration, study, and analysis,” Al-Jabrah said.
The CEO explained that the main activator for the company’s plans is not just financial resources but also human capital.
“The main readiness is not just financial readiness but also, as you know, the human resource and utilizing Saudi skills in order to operate these upcoming factories,” Al-Jabrah said.
Astra Mining was producing 100,000 metric tons of industrial minerals yearly since its inception and has just expanded to 280,000 metric tons per year.
He added that the company signed an agreement during the Future Minerals Forum with the Mining Academy in Turaif to Saudize all technical positions in Astra Mining.
Al-Jabrah further stated that the company already has a large number of Saudi employees and women working in all departments.
The Future Minerals Forum is being held in Riyadh from Jan. 10 to Jan. 12, with an estimated 200 speakers from around the world expected to attend the event.
The forum is set to tackle several topics, including sustainability, the future of mining, energy transition, the contribution of minerals to the development of societies, digital transformation, and integrated value chains.