Sparkling minerals

07 October 2005
Oil and gas will continue to dominate the economies of the Gulf for many years to come, but governments and private investors are beginning to look to other forms of mineral wealth. As a glance at their poorer neighbours reveals, there are considerable riches to be had. Sitting on 85,000 million tonnes of phosphates, Morocco is the undisputed king of the industry, generating a turnover of about $1,500 million from its mining operations. In Jordan, too, the exploitation of phosphate and potash deposits has long been a staple of the economy (see pages 48-50).

Downstream, metals and minerals processing industries are already well established in the GCC. The aluminium industry has always been an attractive option for Gulf economies looking to diversify into heavy industry, as a means of capitalising on the advantage of cheap and plentiful gas feedstock. Middle East plants can survive at a price for their product far below their counterparts in North America and Europe. And a new wave of grassroots facilities is making progress (see pages 46-47).

To date, aluminium production in Bahrain, Dubai and Iran has largely depended on the import of raw materials from as far away as Australia, but the development of an integrated bauxite and aluminium industry is not far away. Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) in particular considers mining and metals smelting to be a potential third pillar of the Saudi economy, after hydrocarbons and petrochemicals. And with massive demand for building materials in most regional capitals, the steel industry has seen a considerable revival, while quarrying for aggregate has become a key business for Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and neighbouring Oman (see pages 47-48).

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