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Navigating the Future of Mining: Lessons from Bob Wilt and Ma'aden's Vision at CSIS

During her trainee program this summer, Margrethe attended Think Tanks events here in D.C. on topics relevant to industries that interest our NorCham members. In this blog post series, she shares her key takeaways.

CSIS, June 12th, 2024

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Gracelin Baskaran, Director of the Project on Critical Minerals Security, hosted Bob Wilt, CEO of Ma’aden, to offer a glimpse into Saudi Arabia’s major mineral company and how its strategies can teach us valuable lessons in the U.S. and Europe. Here’s what we need to take away.

The New Geopolitical Game

The global race for mineral resources is no longer just China versus the U.S.. New contenders like Saudi Arabia are jumping in with big ambitions. With its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is not just joining the game; it is aiming to lead, especially in refining minerals needed in the green energy transition. They are turning into a global minerals hub, which challenges the old Western-centric view and suggests we need to rethink our strategies.

Tech and Talent: The Future of Mining

Mining has evolved into a high-tech industry, using robotics, AI, and digitization to become more efficient and eco-friendly. Ma’aden is setting the new fast pace here, showing how the new deployment of technology makes the mining methods more competitive.

And it’s not just about machines. Wilt stressed the importance of developing a diverse workforce, especially bringing more women into the industry. Ma’aden’s educational programs and university partnerships are building a skilled talent pipeline. Wilt pointed out that the global industry needs to double its workforce to meet future demands for minerals in the face of the energy transition. That is a clear signal for us to invest in human capital just as much as we do in technology.

Mineral industry and sustainability

Sustainability is a core part of Ma’aden’s strategy, and it should be by any mineral company aiming to stay competitive. For mining in the Middle East, water conservation is of great concern, and Wilt talked about strategies to mitigate these challenges. Reducing greenhouse gases has a lot to do with making mining production methods do more for less. Mining in itself is extremely energy-intensive, but without these minerals, we cannot deploy new energy systems, so finding a way to mine more sustainably is vital. For the future of our planet and in order to be aligned with global standards, sustainability has to be integrated into every aspect of industry planning.

Global Partnerships

Ma’aden’s strategy of combining domestic development with international partnerships is something we should pay attention to. By collaborating globally to secure critical minerals while developing domestic resources, Saudi Arabia ensures it meets its industrial needs and positions itself as a reliable global supplier. This model of strategic partnerships and integration can help Western nations achieve mineral security and economic resilience.

Gracelin Baskaran and Bob Wilt's conversation at CSIS reflects the direction of the mining industry. Through technological innovation, robust workforce development, and a commitment to sustainability, Ma’aden is setting new standards as Saudi Arabia seeks to be a global supplier of clean critical minerals. Even in a resource-dependent world, there is great potential for innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability, and we need it all to shift the world towards a greener energy transition.

Picture: CSIS

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