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Predicting growth, Saudi mining company Ma’aden to boost fertilizer capacity

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Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma’aden), the Gulf’s largest miner, plans to boost the capacity of its major fertilizer project in the north of the country this
year as it expects demand to rise, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.

Ma’aden, which is 65 percent owned by the Saudi sovereign fund, the Public Investment Fund, is seen as central to Saudi Arabia’s plan to more than triple mining’s contribution to the nation’s economic output by 2030 as it diversifies from hydrocarbons.

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In recent years, Ma’aden has expanded into the production of aluminum and phosphates from gold and copper.

It said it expects its Waad al-Shamal fertilizer project to reach 85 percent of capacity by the end of this year from 70 percent now and hit full capacity of 3 million tons of fertilizer products by the first quarter of 2022.

“2019 was downside for the market, 2020 more or less a continuation of this and was a challenge for everybody. Looking forward, the market is now more positive than it was and good market fundamentals are driving growth,” Mosaed al-Ohaly said in a virtual interview.

Ohaly said a number of factors were driving a pickup in demand, including growth in Chinese markets and a better outlook for US-China trade ties after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

He said there are also signs that COVID-19 pandemic is easing and the world adapting to the novel coronavirus.

Ohali also said the company will focus on reducing its debt. Its debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) ratio is above 7 percent, which it aims to reduce to around 2.5 percent over next five-to-seven years.

The $8 billion Waad Al Shamal fertilizer production complex includes seven plants and associated facilities, making it one of the largest phosphate production complexes in the world, the company’s website says.