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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Petroleum & Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi told the opening session of the Saudi Mining & Minerals Exhibition & Symposium in Riyadh on Tuesday that that Kingdom aims to triple the contribution to the Saudi economy made by mining and minerals.

“The direct and indirect contribution to GDP has reached SR80 billion and (the sector) has created 265,000 jobs,” Al-Naimi said. “The ministry is aiming to raise the GDP of mining to SR260 billion by 2030 and to create more than 100,000 jobs for citizens.”

Al-Naimi said the Ministry of Petroleum & Mineral Resources was developing a long-term plan for the Kingdom’s mining sector.

Asked if the Kingdom is considering cutting energy subsidies in the near term, Al-Naimi told reporters in Riyadh: “What you are asking is: Is it under study? And the answer is yes.”

The country currently spends around $86 billion a year on subsidies for petroleum products like motor fuel, making a gallon of regular gasoline cost about 46 cents.

Oil retreated after Saudi Arabia’s influential oil minister said Tuesday it was up to the market to determine prices, effectively ruling out an intervention to prop them up. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in December dipped 60 cents to $43.38 per barrel compared with Monday’s close.

Brent North Sea crude for December delivery was down 29 cents at $47.25 per barrel in London midday deals. “Prices are a function of supply and demand,” Al-Naimi told reporters on the sidelines of the mining conference.

Meanwhile, Saudi Geological Survey president Dr. Zohair A Nawab, addressing delegates of the Saudi Mining & Minerals symposium, said that the kingdom plans to complete viability studies into 50 new mineral opportunities next year as part of a development strategy for the sector.

“In 2016, studies will be made for confirmed reserves of more than 50 minerals in order to know their quantities and possible uses in industry,” Nawab said.

These will complement studies already completed about opportunities in phosphates, bauxite, copper, zinc, precious metals, silicon and limestone.

The inaugural event for Saudi Arabia’s mining industry is designed to engage all stakeholders in the sector from upstream exploration to downstream industrial development. More than 2,000 delegates and visitors are expected. The exhibition features 50 exhibitors from 10 countries.

The Saudi Mining and Minerals Symposium 2015, jointly organized by MEED Events and Montgomery Star, is supported by Saudi’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and the National Industrial Cluster Development Program; as well as Ma’aden, Atheeb Intergraph Saudi Company, Outotec, Ali Salem Al Raddadi Factory, Saudi Specialty Chemical Ind. Co. Ltd., ThyssenKrupp, SRK Consulting, Roscoe Postle Associates, Inc. and The Saudi British Bank.

The exhibition and symposium runs until Oct. 29 at Al Faisaliah Exhibition & Convention Centre in Riyadh.