In addition, US consultant Booz Allen & Hamiltonhas done some work on assessing the scope of the project. A tender will be issued soon for the technical consultancy contract. The appointments are understood to cover all elements of the scheme, which is expected to include mining and phosphate processing as well as an integrated railway project.

The project will involve the extraction of phosphates from the Al-Jalamid area in the far north of Saudi Arabia. The ore will then be transferred to Jubail on a new railway link to be built by Maaden and Oger via Riyadh. It will then be processed into fertilisers, including diammonium phosphate (DAP), and exported, probably to India and China. The rail link is expected to be the most expensive part of the project.

Maaden and Oger are now understood to have tied up their joint venture to carry out the projects, although the new company does not yet have a name. The appointment of a technical consultant, expected within the coming months, will lead to the development of more accurate proposals for carrying out the project.

Mining is a key element of the government’s plans to diversify the economy under its seventh five-year plan. A new mining code, to encourage private sector and foreign investment in mining projects in the kingdom, is to be issued by the end of the year.

The kingdom’s rail network is also under scrutiny, with a tender issued in late September for private companies to develop the east-west link connecting Jeddah to Riyadh, which is already linked by rail to Dammam in the Eastern Province (see Transport).