Saudi Arabia set on securing lithium for EV ambitions

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Saudi Arabia set on securing lithium for EV ambitions

RIYADH, April 28 (Reuters)Saudi Arabia is committed to sourcing lithium from overseas as it looks to produce EV batteries and invest in the electric vehicle sector, a senior minister said in an interview, noting attempts to secure domestic supplies were at an early stage.

Saudi Arabia, whose economy has for decades relied on oil, has spent billions attempting to turn itself into a hub for EV manufacturing as part of defacto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s attempts to diversify the economy.

“Lithium is a very important mineral that happens to be part of a very important part of the supply chain, especially for batteries,” Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.

“I wouldn’t imagine that we would live without it,” he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s special meeting in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has begun to explore extracting lithium from sea water and from salinated discharges from the kingdom’s oil fields in cooperation with Aramco, but it did not know yet if these initiatives would be successful.

“There are some signs which are encouraging, but we need to do more,” said Alkhorayef.

“For something to be economically feasible there are two things we need to look at: the size of deposits and concentration. We do not have enough evidence to say that we have the right size of deposits and concentration.”

Last year Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and its flagship mining company Ma’aden formed a joint venture called Manara Minerals to invest in mining assets abroad.

“I’m quite confident that Saudi Arabia’s natural resource needs will be satisfied one way or another,” said Alkhorayef, in response to a question on international lithium investments. “Either through the products that we have in the country or through imports, be it Manara investing or other partners.”

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Santiago approached Chile’s mining ministry about hosting a delegation from the Middle Eastern country later this year to discuss potential investments in Chile’s mining sector, Rodrigo Urquiza, the ministry’s head of international affairs, said last week.

Chile’s Mining Minister Aurora Williams on Thursday declined to be more specific about which metals could be of interest to Saudi Arabia.

Alkhorayef said he was not aware of any discussions with Chile on its lithium licenses.

Reporting by Pesha Magid; Editing by David Holmes

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