Non-Hydrocarbon Minerals as Strategic Resources in the Middle East and North Africa
Despite considerable resources and crucial import dependencies, non-hydrocarbon minerals (NHM) like iron ore, phosphates, bauxite, rare earth metals, gold and uranium receive scant attention in political and economic analysis of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In contrast, the importance of oil and gas for their states, economies and international relations is well documented. The region’s dependence on imports of agricultural commodities has also emerged as a strategic concern in the wake of the global food crisis of 2008. Against this backdrop this article provides a mapping exercise of the economic importance of NHM in the MENA and their governance. Beside a synthesis of the literature and available statistics, it takes stock of relevant grey material and relies on interviews with executives in the respective NHM industries. First it describes how NHM are regarded as a development issue in the literature about the Third World, while they are mostly treated as a strategic concern in manufacturing nations. The article then outlines countries and minerals in the MENA region that play a role in the global geo-economics of NHM and analyzes key actors from the public and private sectors. It compares the strategies that the various MENA countries have adopted and analyzes how this has manifested itself in policies, development plans, mining codes and institution building. It also takes a look at the social and environmental problems that are associated with mining operations. The focus is on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, Turkey, Morocco and Iran.