Saudi Arabia Table of Contents
By the early 1980s, promising deposits of metallic minerals had been found, largely in the western part of the country, but commercial mining was limited. Several international companies and other organizations, including the United States Geological Survey, were surveying and exploring for minerals. Commercial exploitation was being evaluated at some promising sites. The government owned all subsoil resources and permitted joint ventures with Petromin for exploration and mining activities. In fact, the government provided substantial assistance and incentives to foreign firms to develop mining.
The first mining project was the Mahd adh Dhahab gold mine about 280 kilometers northeast of Jiddah. The gold mine started commercial production in 1988 with a total capacity of 400 tons of gravel a day with a ratio of 26 grams of gold and 90 grams of silver per ton. Petromin reached an agreement with a Swedish company to exploit the gold deposits at Shukhaybirat, northeast of Medina. The mine began operations in 1991, planning to produce 1,500 kilograms of gold annually together with silver. Furthermore, gold deposits were found at Hajar (north of Medina), Bir at Tawilah (southeast of Al Taif), and Al Amar (southeast of Riyadh). Also in the early 1980s, iron ore deposits in Wadi Sawawin near the Gulf of Aqaba were under study to determine their economic potential. Ore containing copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold was located in the Al Masani area about 200 kilometers northeast of Jiddah and showed promise. A pilot project began in the early 1980s to determine the feasibility of processing metal-rich mud from the bottom of the Red Sea. Lead, zinc, copper, silver, platinum, and cadmium appeared potentially exploitable. The country also has adequate nonmetallic minerals, such as clay, limestone, glass sand, and stone for the construction industry. These materials were exploited by private firms. Large gypsum deposits had been located near Yanbu and phosphorite had been found in several locations.
Data as of December 1992