When Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) announced plans to build a world-scale fertiliser plant in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, many believed it was too ambitious a scheme for a newcomer to tackle.
On the face of it, the project was extraordinarily ambitious. Maaden not only planned a 3 million tonne-a-year plant, but it would be fed with phosphates from a domestic mining operation in the north of the kingdom. The phosphate rock would then be transported by rail to what is now called Ras al-Khair for processing before being shipped to global markets.
What needs to be remembered is that Maaden was a relatively small-scale gold producer then and had never tackled anything nearly as large.
The company swiftly followed up this scheme by building a $10bn-plus aluminium complex fed by domestically produced bauxite.
So when Maaden announced plans to build another city, this time in a remote region in the north of the kingdom, it was to its credit that no industry expert pronounced this to be too ambitious. It was now par for the course.
If anything, the Waad al-Shamal phosphates city is Maadens toughest project to date due to its remote location. However, this has not stopped the US Mosaic Company, the worlds largest phosphates fertiliser producer, and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation coming on board.