A sprawling desert complex of refineries, smelters and casting machines has become a symbol of Saudi Arabia's attempt to diversify its economy. Sarah Charlton reports on the world's largest integrated aluminium facility and the kingdom's attempts to end its oil addiction.
At a remote outpost on Saudi Arabia's Gulf coast, a mega-complex of refineries, smelters and casting machines transform dull pink rocks into silver bars of aluminium. At a cost of 10.8 billion dollars, this is already the world's largest integrated aluminium facility. And now it has a new challenge. Saudi Arabia wants to end an addiction to volatile oil - and to do that, it needs mining on side. Women are normally barred from entering the premises. but Reuters correspondent Katie Paul visited the Maaden refinery at Ras al-Khair - a symbol of Saudi's attempt to diversify its economy. SOUNDBITE (English) KATIE PAUL, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, SAYING: "The challenge for this facility is meeting the targets that have been set out in the Vision 2030 plan for economic reform. The plan has said that mining in Saudi Arabia will produce 97 billion riyals of output by 2020. They'll need to create many more jobs to be able to hit the very ambitious targets have have been set out, and they're doing that in an environment of low aluminum prices worldwide." The sweeping shake-up is intended to change how Saudi's economy and government function, to prepare for a future less dependent on oil. Mining had long been neglected, but this could now be its chance to shine.