Saudi state-owned miner Ma’aden has carried out lithium extraction from seawater, although the levels are not yet commercially viable, Reuters reported, citing the company’s CEO, Robert Wilt.

Wilt confirmed that the project is still in the pilot phase.

“We are actually producing lithium from seawater now,” he stated.

This initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s broader strategy to become an EV hub, aligning with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 to reduce oil dependency.

Saudi Arabia’s mining industry is considered to be a critical component of its economic diversification plan.

In parallel, Saudi Aramco is exploring lithium extraction from brine at its oilfields.

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As these domestic projects are in early development stages, the country is also looking to acquire lithium and other critical minerals internationally.

Wilt added: “We are both working parallel paths. Ma’aden on extracting lithium from seawater. Aramco from brines where lithium has higher concentration. There are ongoing discussions about how we can join forces.

“We are looking overseas for interests in copper, lithium, iron ore and nickel. We like things in east Asia through Africa, because we are potentially a centralised processing hub,” he said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s position in the supply chain.

Despite the ongoing projects, Wilt, who serves as the vice-chairman of Manara Minerals, clarified that the company is not considering a purchase of the diamond business De Beers.

Anglo American, which recently snubbed a $43bn buyout bid from BHP Group, has contemplated divesting its less profitable divisions, including De Beers.

Manara Minerals, a joint venture between Ma’aden and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), is actively investing in mining assets overseas.

Its first significant international investment was acquiring a 10% stake in Vale Base Metals, a Brazilian company with a $26bn valuation, known for its copper and nickel mining operations.

Through this partnership, Manara has gained access to Vale’s operations in Canada and Indonesia.

Furthermore, Manara is reportedly in discussions with other companies to establish new ventures.