Chairman of the Saudi Minerals Company ‘Maaden’ Dr. Abdullah Al-Dabbagh has explained how the planned north-south rail extension will boost investment in the mining sector, and result in new mineral projects worth SR22 billion [U.S. $ 5.87 billion]. Last week, Saudi Arabia signed a $ 10 million deal with an international consortium of consulting firms for the design of a 1,000-mile railroad linking northern sites of mineral deposits with the Arabian Gulf port of Jubail. The contract involves Canarail of Canada, Systra of France, and the Saudi Consolidated Engineering Company. For the actual construction of the railroad, which is expected to cost around $1.2 billion, the Kingdom will launch an international tender once the consultants have completed their studies.
Maaden plans to use the new railway line to transport bauxite and phosphates to the eastern industrial city of Jubail. The line will be state-owned and a specialized body will operate it. The railway will run southward from close to Saudi Arabia's borders with Jordan and Iraq to the capital Riyadh and then swing east to Jubail.
Also planned is the construction of an industrial complex for ore refining and the processing of phosphates. Estimating the Kingdom's phosphate reserves at 3.1 billion tons, Dr. Al-Dabbagh said their exploitation will lead to new industrial projects such as a factory for phosphoric acid with an annual capacity of 1.3 million tons, as well as plants for sulfuric acid and ammonia. These three projects, he said, would require SR4.5 billion [$1.2 billion] in investment. The aluminum refinery plant would involve investment of SR12 billion [$3.2 billion]. It would have the capability of processing 3.4 million tons of bauxite annually to produce 1,400 million tons of aluminum, but he gave assurances that the bauxite supply from the northern sites can meet the refinery's requirements for 25 years. He added that the railway line would also lead to the establishment of an estimated SR 5.5 billion [$1.5 billion] worth of other mineral projects such as manganese, iron, nickel, titanium, silica and calcium carbonate.