Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) is forming an exploration council to search for copper and zinc deposits in the Kingdom.

Maaden is already operating five gold mines, a phosphate mine in Al-Jalamid and a bauxite mine at Zabirah.

The company’s growth strategy, and the Saudi governments ambition to create mining and metal processing as a third pillar of industry after hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, dictate a more broad-based approach.

“If Maaden wants to grow, and it is part of our strategy to grow, we cannot grow with a small gold mine. We need a large project, a copper, a zinc project, and that’s why we have to expand our exploration, use geophysics and other methodologies to be able to find the deposits that will be able to increase the size of Maaden,” Dr Abdallah Daddagh, member of the board and former chief executive officer at Maaden, told delegates at the MEED Middle East Aluminium 2011 conference in Dubai on 15 March.

Maaden’s phosphate mines will produce around eight million tonnes of phosphate a year, from an estimated total deposit of 534 million tonnes.

Maaden’s five gold mines in Mahd Ad Dahab, Al-Hajar, Sukhaybarat, Bulghah, and Al-Amar tap a total deposit of 10 million ounces.

Saudi Arabia is home to some of the largest bauxite reserves in the world. Maaden is seeking to produce around four million tonnes a year at the Al-Baitha mine over a period of at least 30 years.