In addition to its vast oil and gas reserves, the Kingdom is rich in mineral deposits. Gold mining began in Saudi Arabia some 5,000 years ago. Since then, there have been periods when gold mining has been pursued vigorously (e.g. in the Islamic Abbasid period between the 8th and 13th centuries CE). Three thousand years ago, the mine known as the Cradle of Gold (Mahad Al-Dhahab), some 180 miles north of Jiddah, was a rich source of gold, silver and copper.
According to the Fourth Five Year Plan, gold had been discovered at some 600 sites around the Kingdom and a total of 29 prospects have been drilled. The Mahad Al-Dhabab gold mine was re-opened by Petromin with the intention of developing a high-grade underground gold mine with a capacity of 400 tons of ore per day. This venture encouraged further exploration for gold elsewhere in the Kingdom.
Silver and base metal deposits (bauxite, copper, iron, lead, tin and zinc), as well as non-metallic minerals (bentonite, diatomite, fluorite, potash and high-purity silica sand) have all been discovered, attesting to the wealth that remains, still largely unexploited, beneath the Kingdom's soil.