(Bloomberg) — In scorching summer heat, Renier Swiegers marches through the desert toward a drilling rig. He’s not looking for oil, the dynamo of Saudi Arabia’s economy the past 80 years, though. It’s another potential source of wealth and influence the kingdom now has its eye on.
Having already used its energy riches to upend the worlds of sports, tourism and movies, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is prepared to pour billions of dollars into tapping the more than $1.3 trillion of metals his government says is buried in places like this.
The plan may be among the less glamorous components of his grand Vision 2030 to transform the Saudi economy. The prospect of turning the country into a metals hub that can make a dent in a global industry also has no shortage of skeptics. But Saudi Arabia’s 38-year-old de-facto leader has no shortage of wealth or ambition. Key will be convincing international mining companies it’s worth their while.
If only partially successful, the dream would have implications beyond the Middle East, not just for metals mining but also Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US, China and the emerging markets the kingdom is inching closer to.
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