OPENING NEW FRONTIERS

Jordan 2019 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

Both Jordan and the greater Arab world are rich in resources, which ARMICO strives to put to the best possible use.

Talal Al-Saadi
BIOGRAPHY
Talal Al-Saadi has been the General Manager of ARMICO since 1989. He was previously Director of the Research and Development Center at the Jordan Phosphate Mines Co. and Director of Mining Laboratories at the Natural Resources Authority of Jordan. He holds a BSc in geology and chemistry from Cairo University, an MSc in industrial mineralogy from Durham University, a DIC diploma of the Imperial College in mineral technology, and an MSc in mineral process design.

What is the significance of your new headquarters in Amman, and what does it say about Jordan's trajectory in the mining sector?

We moved to our new, more spacious headquarters to accommodate another company we established that is active in the area of mining and development. The headquarters of ARMICO have been in Amman since 1975, and our first investment was in 1977, in Arab Potash Company. Over the years, we have sought to enhance the mining sector in the Arab world by promoting a number of projects and participating in the operations of more than 22 Arab mining companies. Today, we have seven companies in our investment portfolio. We have learned a great deal over the years, both from our successes and our failures, and we will draw upon such experiences in our future business ventures. Indeed, ARMICO exists to launch new ventures in mining and related industries. As a pan-Arab company established by a number of governments, ARMICO aims to open new frontiers through innovation and does not compete with the private sector. Our mission is to focus on those areas in the mining industry that can potentially lead to added value.

How is ARMICO advancing mining and related industries in Jordan?

The only way forward for Jordan is to boost industries with notable added value. From potash and phosphate, Jordan can produce high-quality building materials or enter specialty industries like glass crystal and even optical glasses. We have sought to launch a project with great added-value potentials, though unfortunately we have not succeeded so far. Having a strategic international partner always helps. Phosphate used to be a main pillar of the mining industry in Jordan and has many applications Jordan could capitalize on. The margin of profits depends on the pricing of phosphate concentrates, and prices may rise in the future as a result of the emergence of new industries that use the metallic contents of phosphates to manufacture value-added products. Uranium and other rare-earth metals can be extracted from phosphates. Phosphates can be used, not only in their traditional applications such as the manufacturing of fertilizers, but also to extract metals. This is a viable opportunity for the mining industry in Jordan, though there are currently no imminent projects. Added to all mentioned nonmetallic industries, examples of metallic industries include copper, manganese, and other associated elements.

People do not think of Jordan as a resource-rich country. How can ARMICO reverse this misconception?

First and foremost, we need to spread awareness. Only then will people realize the full potential, and this may even lead to more investments in the country. Admittedly, we do not have gas or petroleum reserves; however, there are many other possibilities, including oil shale. Uranium is a viable resource, and the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission is persevering in this regard. We worked together to establish a company called the University Company of Research and Development, whose aim was to bridge the gap between academia and the industry sector in Jordan. Sometimes people fail to grasp the importance of research, though I try to fight this negative view by valuing research and establishing research centers and labs. Many of our early attempts failed, and it took me years to convince everyone in ARMICO that a research institute would work to the company's advantage. The Arab Mining Industries Development Institute, the first-such research institute in the Arab world, will build a highly qualified workforce and attract international partnerships with other research institutes. This facility here will host a delegation from the Colorado School of Mines. The help of a world-class institute such as the Colorado School of Mines will be essential for us. Whenever we want to focus on a subject, we will find the leading research centers focusing on the issue, invite them over, and cooperate with them. In mining, there are many subareas to study, and it is essential for young people in this line of work to always expand their horizons.