UMIC Projects

An introduction to the mineral resources of Saudi Arabia

Contrary to popular perception, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not a land of desert sands, but a land with a diverse range of rocks, in types and ages. The rocks of Saudi Arabia range in age from the Precambrian to the present day.

Some Precambrian rocks in this region possibly date back to the Archean (nearly 3 billion years ago) but most are Neoproterozoic (1000-540 Ma). They originated as chains of volcanoes in a Neoproterozoic ocean that were folded and uplifted into a large mountain range. They existed between about 680-540 Ma and were part of one of the largest mountain belts ever known. By the end of the Precambrian, the mountains had been mostly eroded and the remnants are exposed in western Saudi Arabia.

The younger rocks in Saudi Arabia belong to the Phanerozoic Eon (540Ma to Recent), including Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras. These rocks are generally seen as relatively flat lying beds of sedimentary rocks such as sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and evaporites (salt deposits), and volcanic rocks. Rocks to the north and east of the Arabian shield are referred to as the Arabian Platform; those on the shield are mainly harrat (fields of Cenozoic flood basalt); and those west of the shield are Cenozoic rocks that occupy the Red Sea basin. The youngest deposits in the region include coral limestone and unconsolidated sand, silt, gravel, and sabkhah, which accumulated in the sand seas of Ar Rub al Khali and An Nafud, filled dried-up lake beds and wadis, and fringed the coastlines.

The Precambrian contain most of Saudi Arabia's known metal deposits of gold, silver, copper, zinc, iron, and magnesium. Precious and industrial metals have been mined in Saudi Arabia for at least 5,000 years. The most productive mine in Saudi Arabia, Mahd adh Dhahab ("Cradle of Gold"), has been periodically exploited for its mineral wealth for hundreds or even thousands of years and is reputed to be the original source of King Solomon's gold. The Phanerozoic cover contains the oil resources and deposits of bauxite (the source of aluminium), phosphate, clay, limestone, silica sand, and lightweight aggregate that are of increasing importance to the industrial development of the Kingdom. UMIC has selected the exploitation of industrial minerals as the intial focus for the Company's activities but looks forward to pursuing other minerals and metals in the future.

For more information on the geology of Saudi Arabia, please visit the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) website.