Chairman, Saudi Gold Refinery Company (SGRC)
"We are working hard to launch an Initial Public Offering that will enable us to operate 10 mines in the different terrains of the Arabian Shield before 2030 and more, God willing."
Sheikh Suliman Bin Saleh Al-Othaim, Chairman of Saudi Gold Refinery Company (SGRC), about the company’s history, the mining sector at large, and goals for the coming year.
How was the Gold Refinery Company listed under the Suliman Al-Othaim Group?
The outset of the establishment of a group of entities companies and institutions in Othaim was by Sheikh Saleh bin Ali Al Othaim my father in 1950 and from that time until 1990. I and my brothers worked together, and when the activities of the group branched and became working in various fields was increased the number of companies then branched into several companies and groups of different activities and investments, including Othaim Jewelry, which has now become Suleiman Othaim Jewelry. We first retail before returning to jewelry manufacturing and then entering the gold refinery. Today, we are a gold mining company, we produce about 1.5 tons of gold per year. Moreover, our group is also looking forward to achieving the highest gold production in Saudi Arabia, we aim to produce at least 10 tons per year. We are working hard to launch an Initial Public Offering that will enable us to operate 10 mines in the different terrains of the Arabian Shield before 2030 and more, God willing.
How does the government support you as a private-sector company to achieve these goals?
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by all its “specialized” institutions, has pushed the mining sector in the Kingdom forward with constant and remarkable efforts that have made the Kingdom nowadays an important center to attract not only national and foreign capital to invest in this vital sector but also to attract minds and knowledge by placing competitive advantages on several axes. The first axis: The periodic convening and continuous participation in international conferences of high reputation in the exploration and mining sectors to highlight the real potential and competitive advantages offered and provided by KSA, such as the existence of > 5400 mineral occurrences either metallic or nonmetallic commodities throughout the entire Kingdom, with especial references to the western third which is the Arabian Shield. The geographical location of the Kingdom, which is in the middle of the world, the relative decline in fuel prices, and the construction of roads throughout the Kingdom facilitate the transport of ore from the production mining and quarries to the processing areas. The second axis: The establishment of many Seaports for export, and the allocation of areas for industrial aggregates. The second axis is the release of Saudi’s Mining Law in its new form, which regulates the relationship between the investor and the state through clear clauses that ensure transparency, equal opportunities and reduce time and effort through the digitization of all steps. The third axis: The allocation of the Industrial Development Fund by the state to support investors in this high-risk sector, so the government finances 75% of our mining costs, which helps companies in Saudi Arabia achieve the mining target set by the government in the light of Vision 2030 and also attracts national and international investors. The mining sector, the products we extract, whether gold, copper, zinc, lead, and nickel. Our efforts will help Saudi Arabia achieve its vision and serve the world not only with ores and raw materials but also with the final product after ore processing.
How do you align your efforts with the Ministry’s mining sector strategy and diversify sources of income in the Kingdom?
As we mentioned before, we are a part of the government program, and our mission is to operate the mine and produce the ore. Whether it is gold, silver “precious” copper, zinc, lead base metal sulfides, aluminum, nickel or lithium etc., and from this view point, the main targets of our company group coincide in its vision with this vision of the state to achieve the goals of the government. I have worked in the mining field for 32 years, and we are doing our best to achieve our goals of making gold the commodity with the highest income, as well as creating a focus on other commodities such as copper, zinc, REEs and others, as the Arabian Shield is full of all terranes with a great diversity in rock units, alternatively affected by brittle-ductile structures bounded and by tectonic frameworks, which caused the formation of many geological environments that suit the precipitation of ore minerals belongs to different metallogeny. This situation has impacted metallic factor producing multiple mineral commodities of all kinds. The production of the ore minerals constitutes the spinal cord and first step on the road to industrial development, meeting the needs of the local market and exporting products labeled “Made in the KSA.” Studies have also shown that Saudi Arabia contains promising mineral deposits with huge potential in terms of new resources. We work with international and local teams to explore and enhance our knowledge of our mineralization localities for mine operation and ore production. We are proud to be the first company in Saudi Arabia with all four fields in gold under one organization: mining, refinery, gold production, and retail, and distribution. We also plan to achieve the same goal with other commodities in the next years.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the National Industrial Strategy to increase production in GDP and exports by 2030. Where will most of your exports go?
We will export as the world demands, but we will be keen to raise the added value by introducing the ore raw materials that we will produce in a series of industrial treatments and we plan to build many smelters with the help of international companies “specialized” to cast raw materials and sell them as alloys and special products desire of high quality for specific and universal standards. We will deliver wherever we need; due to Saudi Arabia’s strategic location, we can reach nearly 70% of the world within eight hours, both by sea and air shipping.
How will your Hamdah mine in the Asir region fit into the Asir development strategy?
The mining sector is characterized by a prolific sector and I do not mean technical labor only; like consultants, experts, geologists, mining engineers, and geological assistants, but I mean all the supporting team jobs such as drivers and drillers in addition to administrators, local workers, guards, and others. The administration in our mine has been keen to give preference to raising the efficiency and development of local youth, which improves their stability, increases their income, and polishes their personalities and their mentalities. Also, in all our mines, we have a social activity program where we partner with universities and train undergraduate students in our mines. We also send local talent to the Modern Institute in northern Saudi Arabia to promote their technical levels to enhance their knowledge of working in mines. These initiatives will ultimately help us assess who should be hired in line with our Human Resource demand or help them get employment by referring them to other mining companies.
What are your efforts to attract direct foreign investment “FDI” to this sector?
Only a businessman can attract a businessman “whether he is independent or affiliated with an institution, company, or consortium.” This can be easily explained that they speak one language, which is the winner-winner relationship. In other words, a guarantee of profitability for both parties. I think that if we want to promote the mining sector strongly, the government should encourage partnerships between national businessmen with international businessmen, which is what the state is doing now. It should be clearly activated. We are actively pursuing direct investments and have made progress with many investors interested in investing with us. We are currently in negotiations with them. We have successfully concluded technical agreements with three foreign companies from the UK, South Africa, and Turkey. The latter will support us in obtaining six licenses from the Ministry in the first quarter of 2023. We are also applying for about 50 more licenses with the other two partners. These partnerships provide us with international expertise, we plan to be one of the largest active investors in the mining sector.
What are the next steps for Saudi Gold Refinery Company in the next year?
The mining sector is a long-term sector, which does not mean that we do not have a short-term plan, but one year does not mean much. We look forward to operating the gold mines that we have a license in hand and their natural extensions according to the system and according to the application for licenses first, this means that we will complete the feasibility study, which required two or three years or more per mine. We will work day after day to finalize the feasibility study and analyze thousands if not tens of thousands, of rock and mineralized samples of surface, trench, and core sample types to meet with requirements of producing the feasibility study. This also includes exhaustive laboratory work. We must conduct drilling programs that require huge and continuous financial allocations.