Maaden is also expected to invite expressions of interest for a technical advisory mandate shortly after completion of the study later this year.

The company is also understood to be considering bringing in a technical partner for the $1,500 million minerals railway, which will now be developed independently of the mining projects. Maaden is also working with Saudi Ogeron the phosphate mining project at Al-Jalamid, which will be the northernmost terminus of the 1,200-kilometre railroad. The Saudi Railways Organisation is already moving ahead with a separate east-west link (MEED 18:10:02).

Located half-way along the proposed rail link, the Al-Zabirah bauxite project will produce 3.5 million tonnes a year (t/y) of bauxite ore, which will be refined to 1.4 million t/y of alumina and delivered to an aluminium smelter on the Gulf coast with capacity of more than 600,000 t/y for export.

ANZ Investment Bankand Riyad Bankwere awarded the financial advisory mandate for the bauxite project in October. Financial close for the project is expected in the second half of 2004.