From the desk of DPI’s Executive Director, 10 February 2022
Last week I shared Part One of my reflections on my first trip to Saudi Arabia for the Future Minerals Forum. The vision for mining in the region is bold and ambitious and the forum included sincere conversations about ESG and partnerships, something we’re passionate about at DPI. You can read Part One here and continue reading my thoughts below:
At the Development Partner Institute, we believe in a world that is inclusive and diverse. Through our work, one of the joys I have is meeting younger people who are passionate about sustainability and the sector. In the young people I met in Saudi Arabia, I was struck by the juxtaposition I saw between deep respect for Islam, culture and tradition combined with talent, exuberance, and passion for progress.
Speakers from the region highlighted the need to attract youth and talent to the sector. Human capability will continue to be critical, and high educational standards and a young population position the Kingdom well.
A Women in Mining panel that I was part of drew a large, engaged crowd. A number of Saudi speakers on different panels highlighted the potential for women as contributors to the sector. While there is currently an acknowledged gap with low numbers of women in the sector, we see opportunity to expand the space in the sector for women through education, training, mentorship, sponsorship. Entrepreneurship will also be crucial.
Innovate to Engage
With Saudi Arabia’s economy secured by the oil and gas produced over the last 60 years or so, I see more reverence for industry than in some other countries that lament that young people are moving en-masse from primary industry to other service-oriented sectors.
There are many pathways for young people into mining. Innovative education, training, and experience will be needed to engage young people in the sector. Creating opportunities to support women and to create spaces for men and women to collaborate can be aided by establishing Women in Mining chapters.
Overall, I was encouraged by the commitment to the sector and for collaborative, multi-stakeholder approaches. Or, as Mark Bristow asked, how to grow the pie so we can share it?
Growth through Collaboration
There are inevitable growing pains for the sector also. Some speakers lamented that the junior sector is currently underdeveloped. And that tremendous opportunities abound if a successful junior mining sector can be created.
Perceptions in the West are also a limitation to attracting investment. (Some people quietly said to me that they feel Saudi Arabia is misunderstood by the West. I feel that too.)
My thoughts are that it is entirely possible to imagine Saudi Arabia as the centre of a regional hub, with a thriving, vibrant mining sector. There is growing confidence in the power and potential of regional collaboration.
On a panel I moderated with Ministers from four countries, His Excellency Minister Bandar Al-Khorayef of Saudi Arabia said:
“My call to action is definitely to continue working together, collaborating, bringing governments with investors, with financial institutions with service providers to discuss the challenges to work together for a mining industry that is beneficial and impactful for our economies and our citizens.”
With ESG prevalent and deeply embedded in the values of the Kingdom, it is young women and men who hold the keys to future success.
“You’re going to love it!”
Even before I had landed in Saudi Arabia, the nation’s hospitality wrapped around me like a warm breeze.
Each email and phone call was full of genuine warmth. Walking to board my flight in Doha, I was chatting to a young woman who lives in Riyadh and had been on holiday in Doha. She asked me if it was my first time visiting the Kingdom. I replied that it was. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She told me that the people, the culture, and the hospitality were second to none. She said: “You’re going to love it!” And I did.
At the Development Partner Institute, we’re particularly interested in the opportunities to promote and accelerate development through partnerships that benefit people.
We want to see the dissemination of economic benefits so that communities and countries thrive and flourish. We know that there are examples of where that happens today and also too many examples of where it does not. We progress when we learn together. I encourage exploration of new collaborative models for development partnership and responsible sourcing and if you’d like to learn more, please contact us.
- Wendy Tyrrell, Executive Director, the Development Partner Institute