Saudi Arabian firm begins iron ore exploration in Mauritania

ironore wikimedia commonsChemical company Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has entered joint venture agreements with Mauritanian National Company for Industry and Mining and has commenced iron ore exploration in the Atomai Mines

Saudi Arabian conglomerate SABIC, which is 70 per cent-owned by the government and has interests in chemicals production, fertilisers, industry polymers and metals, has been exploring the Atomai Mines in Zouerate, northern Mauritania and has been conducting a series of feasability studies. The site is believed to hold more than 500mn tonnes of iron ore reserves, according to initial estimates.

Technical studies reveal that there could be even higher reserves of up to a billion tonnes. According to Arab News, the Atomai Mines are known for their high content of high-quality iron and are among the best in the world, with a low cost of extraction.

Abdulaziz Al-Humaid, executive vice president, metals strategic business unit, SABIC, stated that excavation work as part of the agreements began in September 2013 and is expected to continue for three years. SABIC has been aiming to shore up raw material sources for its plant in Saudi Arabia, with surpluses expected to be sold to targeted markets.

The agreement has seen the establishment of Mauritania Saudi Mining and Steel Company (TAKAMUL), launched to acquire the necessary mining licenses, carry out feasibility studies and exploration work.

The mining industry is particularly attractive to keen investors, with total industry production accounting for over 65 per cent of total exports. Iron ore alone represents more than 35 per cent of the north-west African country's exports. It is the most important sector of the country’s economy, contributing an estimated 12 per cent of total gross domestic product (GDP).

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