Since the formation of Ma’aden, Exploration has delivered the

Mineral Resources in gold, phosphate and bauxite which are the

foundation of the company’s continued growth and which has

supported Ma’aden’s vision for mining to become the third pillar

of the Saudi economy.


Exploration’s continuing role is to explore for, discover and evaluate new mineral resources to continue to drive company growth and to replenish Ore Reserves depleted by mining.


With this vision to be the third pillar of the Saudi Arabian economy and the Saudi mining champion, Ma’aden’s strategy is to assess, explore and develop the abundant natural endowment of Saudi Arabia in gold and base metals and other strategic metals throughout the Kingdom. This focused effort will complement the established resources in Phosphate and Bauxite already in development, will drive Ma’aden growth and extend the life of existing mines.

Based on the 10x Growth Strategy endorsed by the Board in September 2021, Ma’aden has set the ambition to evaluate and explore the whole of Saudi Arabia, including the Arabian Shield and the Arabian Platform. This will require transforming the Exploration business to significantly scale up its capacity and build new capabilities, a process that commenced in 2021 and will continue into 2022. The use of advanced exploration technologies and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning approach to targeting, developed over the last two years, has provided us with the targeting ability to drive this ambitious program. Building on this capability and developing the vendor and partner ecosystem is core to the successful delivery of the strategy. Engaging proactively with our wide range of stakeholders is essential to secure the exploration licences, which we need to deliver this programme’s objectives.

Health and Safety

The safety of our staff and contractors at work and home is one of Ma’aden’ s principal drivers and increasing safety awareness across our workforce one of our goals. In 2021, we maintained our excellent safety performance while continuing our focus on our high impact risk areas such as vehicle related incidents. This was achieved through advanced driver training, vehicle monitoring and journey management. Initiatives in other areas such as remote work hazards and heat stress were trialed, and mitigation measures were implemented.

The new Ma’aden-wide safety health and environment management system (MSHEM) was implemented in Exploration. Areas for improvement were identified areas for improved procedures and practices were identified and are being addressed. COVID-19 on our operations continued to affect our operation during this second year of the pandemic but minimal impact was achieved from rigorous adherence to guidelines and procedures.

Operations and achievements

During 2021, the Exploration Division maintained a high level of operations across our portfolio of exploration licences. We completed geophysical programmes in the exploration and evaluation by reverse circulation and diamond core drilling of several gold, base metals and industrial targets at all stages in our project pipeline.

Ma’aden’s greenfield and brownfield exploration drilling on exploration and mining licences for all commodities totaled 311,162 metres in 2021. reverse circulation and diamond core drilling of several gold, base metals, and industrial targets at all stages in our project pipeline.

Ma’aden’s greenfield and brownfield exploration drilling on exploration and mining licenses for all commodities totaled 311,162 meters in 2021.

Drilling by Commodity in 2021 (in metres)

Commodity EL PFS + FS ML
Gold 124,906 38,744 94,699
Base metals 6,107 0 16,986
Phosphate 24,197 0 0
Bauxite - kaolin 5,523 0 0
Total 160,733 38,744 111,685

EL – exploration licence; PFS – prefeasibility; FS – feasibility; ML - mining licence

The Exploration Division explores Ma’aden’s exploration licences. Exploration on mining licences for mine development projects is conducted by the Ma’aden Business Units and on our operating mines by the Ma’aden Affiliates.

In 2021, Ma’aden Exploration Division focused on developing early stage exploration targets on newly granted licences as well as testing and delineating advanced stage targets, moving these through the pipeline to subsequent evaluation stages. The Exploration Division conducted resource delineation drilling on the Zalim and Maham gold targets and on Umm Wu’al exploration licences adjacent to the Al Khabra phosphate mine. Work commenced on new exploration licences, which granted in late 2020 at Jabal Sayed brownfield, Lahuf in the Mahd Adh Dhahab brownfield area and at Musayna’ah in the Northern Arabian Gold Region. Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Company (MGBM) conducted resource delineation drilling and evaluation on mining licences at Mahd Adh Dhahab gold mine and the Ar Rjum prefeasibility project.

Exploration also focused on brownfield targets in the Central Arabian Gold region along strike from the Ar Rjum Prefeasibility Project and the Mansourah-Massarah project which is under construction.

Ma’aden-Barrick Copper Company (MBCC) completed surface and underground exploration drilling on Lodes 1 and 4 at the Jabal Sayid mining licence.


The addition of new gold and phosphate mineral resources was the main focus during 2021. In 2021, Ma’aden spent SAR 237 million in greenfield and brownfield exploration programmes for seven commodities, a 6% increase over 2020. Of this expenditure, 86% was spent on gold exploration and approximately 5% each on base metals and phosphate. SAR 126 million (53%) was spent of greenfield programmes and SAR 111 million was spent on brownfield programmes on exploration and mining licences.

SAR 0million

was spent on greenfield programmes

SAR 0million

was spent on brownfield programmes
on exploration and mining licences

Exploration Expenditure by Commodity in 2021
(in SAR million)

Commodity EL PFS + FS ML
Gold 113.0 35.6 54.8
Base metals 2.9 0 7.6
Phosphate 12.8 0 0
Bauxite - kaolin 7.9 0 0
Bauxite - kaolin 2.2 0 N/A
Total 138.8 35.6 62.4

EL - exploration licence; PFS – prefeasibility; FS – feasibility; ML - mining licence


Ma’aden held an area of 16,868 km2 of granted exploration licences and 32,612 km2 under application for all commodities on 1 January 2021 when the new Mining Investment Law and Regulations came into effect. During 2021, about 50% of the applications were determined by the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources with 3,052 km2 in 40 licences being granted, primarily in gold and base metals, and 12,349 km2 in 153 licences being rejected. The reasons for rejections were due to overlap with prior applications, wildlife protected areas or with mega development projects. Discussion with the concerned authorities to review these rejection decisions is ongoing. The Ma’aden licence portfolio on 31 December 2021 is shown in the table below.

Area of Licences and Applications on 31 December
2021 (in km2)

Area of Licences and Applications on 31 December 2021 (in km)

Commodity EL ELA ML MLA
Gold 15,728 8,851 398 9
Base metals 1,581 7,091 16 0
Phosphate 1,660 1,108 0 0
Potash 228* 0 0 0
Bauxite - kaolin 589 0 175 81
Total 19,824 17,117 592 90

EL - exploration licence; ELA - EL application; ML - mining licence; MLA - ML application
* Under renewal

Several gold and phosphate exploration licences expire in early 2022 and mining licences applications over Mineral Resources delineated on these licences are prepared for lodgment.

Exploration Targets

The brownfield resource delineation programmes in 2021 evaluated significant Exploration Targets in multiple commodities.

Umm Wu’al Phosphate Target

The Umm Wu’al target is located on several contiguous licences (Blocks 13,14, 15, 22, 23) adjacent to the Al Khabra mine operated by Ma’aden Waad Al Shamal Phosphate Company (MWSPC). The target was explored as potential new standalone projects or for an expansion of the Al Khabra Mine.

The results of the 2021 programme delineated an additional inferred resource of 499 million tonnes of phosphate mineralisation at a grade of 15.2% P2O5 on these blocks bringing the total inferred resource on the Umm Wu’al blocks to 3,773 million tonnes at a grade of 15.2% P2O5. The exploration licences expire in 2022 and mining licences applications are prepared for lodgment.