Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden), the state miner of the world’s top oil exporter, plans “huge” investments in exploring for lithium and nickel in Saudi Arabia over the next two decades, Maaden’s top executive told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.
“In the next 10 to 20 years we are going to spend huge amount of money looking for those metals in Saudi Arabia,” Maaden’s chief executive officer Abdulaziz Al Harbi told Bloomberg, asked about the key battery metals lithium and nickel.
The world’s largest oil exporter is thus betting on critical battery metals, whose demand is set to grow exponentially in the energy transition.
It is unclear whether Saudi state miner Maaden would be involved in a recently announced plan from Australia-based EV Metals Group plc to build and develop a battery chemicals complex in the Yanbu industrial city in Saudi Arabia, following the signing of a conditional investment agreement with the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY).
“We have also advanced the development of the Saudi supply chain with applications for exploration licenses over areas with identified critical raw materials containing lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, platinum group metals and rare earth elements,” EV Metals Group said while announcing the plans in early October.
Critical battery metals will be among the most sought-after commodities in coming years due to the global drive for electrification and increased solar and wind power installations, analysts say, as they expect tight markets for key battery minerals ahead.
“Today’s mineral supply and investment plans fall short of what is needed to transform the energy sector, raising the risk of delayed or more expensive energy transitions,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on the role of critical minerals earlier this year.
For example, lithium prices have soared this year to record highs, as lithium demand for EVs will only grow in the coming years, analysts say.