Aussie experts head to Saudi mining forum

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is wooing Australians to help diversify its economy and lead the next energy revolution.

The Future Minerals Forum that begins in Riyadh on Tuesday with a ministerial roundtable includes international mining leaders, emerging minerals experts, top technologists, analysts and investors.

Although Australia's resources minister Madeleine King is not attending, well-known names on the 200-plus list of speakers include BHP CEO Mike Henry, Rio Tinto chair Dominic Barton and Australian businessman Andrew Liveris.

BHP says it is participating as a world leader in finding and producing key future-facing minerals needed to meet global decarbonisation goals.

Mr Henry will do a fireside chat on "mining and owning the energy transition".

Rio Tinto, already looking beyond usual mining jurisdictions, is also sending chief technical officer Mark Davies to the kingdom.

OZ Minerals technology lead Michelle Ash and CEO of industry group Austmine Christine Gibbs-Stewart will join more than 30 women in mining from Africa, Europe and the Middle East scheduled to speak to thousands of delegates.

Saudi Arabia took out prime real estate at a recent international mining expo in Sydney to showcase investment opportunities, including the vast reserves in the so-called Arabian Shield mineral region which extends into Africa and Central Asia.

According to Mining, Industry and Mineral Resources Vice-Minister Khalid Al-Mudaifer, Saudi Arabia will become the world leader in sustainable metal production.

New projects are needed for the energy transition from hydrocarbons to renewables and he says the immense resources in the emerging super-mining region have the geological potential to provide the world with the critical minerals it needs.

"Together with the wider region, we can be a key enabler of a decarbonised economy while supporting sustainable economic development," he said.

Amid the hype, the forum's agenda includes the implications of the war in Ukraine for future minerals supply, the need for the latest technology and automation, workforce development and maintaining a social licence - community support - for the use of water and land.

A range of academic papers on the future of mining will also be released, including from strategist Peter Bryant.

"We need to re-imagine the mining industry" beyond extraction, he says, seeing it as a catalyst for broader economic prosperity and supporting better health and education.

Saudi Arabia's ambitious hydrogen and solar energy projects could also support energy-intensive processes, including copper smelting and battery recycling, as a regional hub to rival Australia's ambitions in the global supply chain.

But Mr Bryant warns that community voices, particularly First Nations, have been notably absent from strategic conversations.

He says responsible mining and processing, as well as social issues, could be helped by making it easier to create new businesses, improving access to capital and providing infrastructure - particularly communications - for remote regions.