Connected for SecurityThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region increasingly attracts the interest of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Some EU (and NATO) members, notably France, Italy, and Spain, had recognised the importance of the region, not only because of its huge oil and gas resources.
The Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) led to closer ties between MENA, NATO, and EU member states since at least the mid-1990s, with a great potential identified in closer military cooperation and emphasis on maritime security in the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea. The MD, which was founded shortly after the end of the Cold War in 1994 and initially encompassed the five member states Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. These were all considered stable and friendly toward the West. Lacking other MENA states, like Algeria (which was invited in 2000 to join), Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria at that time, the MD, as a consultative forum, was to seek to contribute to security and stability in the Mediterranean as a whole, to achieve better mutual understanding, and to correct any misunderstandings of the Alliance’s purposes that could lead to a perception of threat, according to a statement by the NATO spokesman on NATO’s Mediterranean Initiative on 8 February 1995. The bilateral forum developed over the years into a more substantial cooperation.
Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the Arab League since 1 July 2011, said Arab countries needed to make a “clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation” to, what he called, “cancerous and terrorist” groups.
(Photo: Amr Nabil/AP)
One observation makes it clear: Despite the differences between NATO and the Arab world, security relations between them may led to an “about-turn in the space for two decades”, according to Dr. Florence Gaub, a researcher and lecturer in the NATO Defence College’s Middle East Faculty, in her Strategic Studies Institute Monograph entitled “Against All Odds: Relations between NATO and the MENA Region”. Published by the US Army War College in August 2012, the author states: “...MD countries (Morocco and Jordan) have contributed to NATO operations in Kosovo, Libya, and Afghanistan. Six of the seven MD countries have concluded Individual Partnership Cooperation Programmes, designed to deepen their relationship with NATO by offering tailored advice on reforms.”
Also, Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, the first NATO operation in an Arab country, led to closer ties with the four Arab nations Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which took part in the military actions against Libya’s military. Former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa stated on 22 February 2011 that Libya’s membership in the Arab League had been suspended: “The organisation has decided to halt the participation of the Libyan delegations from all Arab League sessions.” The Arab league, which has no military force like the United Nations (UN) or EU, called the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
Not to forget security of the region’s natural resources. EU member states put security of natural resources in the MENA region high on the agenda. Programmes under a cooperative manner have been initiated to help improve the understanding of the region’s natural resources and develop strategies to protect them against terrorist, criminal, and other unlawful actions. Following decades of burdens, relations between the West and Arab nations also made an about-turn in the space. With Beijing and Moscow seeking to expand their influence over the oil- and gas-rich countries in the region, there is profound progress in the development of common EU/MENA or EU/GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) projects, mainly in the fields of energy, telecommunications, shipbuilding, and transportation. The latter includes waterways like the Nile River, for which two countries – Egypt and Sudan – have started to improve the navigation system.
Modern-day development of the Gulf region is influenced by its richness in crude oil. The six GCC members Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are expected to host around one third of known global reserves of crude oil and nearly a quarter of the world’s natural gas reserves. Strategists in certain GCC countries like Qatar and the UAE group them as the region’s main challenge.
The GCC’s oil and gas resources are known to be hosted by the Qusaiba-sourced Paleozoic Total Petroleum Systems, for which the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates a mean of 37 billion barrels of oil and 808 trillion cubic feet of gas as undiscovered conventional resources. According to the USGS report “Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of Lower Silurian Qusaiba-Paleozoic Total Petroleum Systems, Arabian Peninsula“, which was released in January 2012, organic-rich shale of the Lower Silurian Qusaiba Member of the Qalibah Formation is a prolific source rock for hydrocarbons in four Paleozoic Total Petroleum Systems of the Arabian Peninsula. According to the report, the basal part of the Qusaiba is the most effective hydrocarbon source-rock facies (formation), with as much as 75m of hot shale having total organic carbon as high as 14%. However, exploration for Qusaiba-sourced hydrocarbons of the Arabian Peninsula is generally at an early stage.
Paleozoic Total Petroleum Systems of the Arabian Peninsula.
(Map: US Geological Survey)
The UAE is expected by nuclear experts to emerge as the first Arab nation to produce nuclear power for domestic use. The country is on schedule to commission four South Korean-designed 1.4GW APR-1400 pressurised water reactors (PWRs) at Barakah on the Gulf between 2017 and 2020. An additional 20GW is expected by 2030. Jordan, which is completely dependent on imported energy, established a nuclear commission in 2007 and has conducted pre-construction evaluations since 2008. Russia’s BOO proposal for two 1GW reactors at the Al Amra desert site has now been selected and is being finalised. A decision to proceed is expected in 2015, with first unit operation in 2021.
Another MENA country for which the nuclear power option provides a secure alternative energy source to meet demand is Egypt. The Egyptian government has reactivated its nuclear energy programme that foresees the pre-construction planning of four 1.2GW reactors at the El-Dabba site. However, it is expected that the current transitional political environment will delay the programme. Almost 70% of Egypt’s energy needs come from domestic gas resources which are predicted to be depleted within two decades.
Nuclear energy projects in the MENA region could benefit from significant quantities of uranium that can be recovered as a by-product of phosphate production. Examples include Gantour (Morocco) and Al-Abiad (Jordan). Exploration expenditures in Egypt (divided between grassroots exploration for new deposits and confirmation drilling in and around existing discoveries) during the past 10 to 20 years have been reported at over 6% of the worldwide total, according to the 2005 IAEA report “Recent Developments in Uranium Exploration, Production and Environmental Issues“.
In some MENA countries, like Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, nuclear energy could be an option to reduce reliance on the import of expensive fossil fuels. Also, nuclear power can contribute towards lowering the MENA region’s overall carbon footprint.
Renewables are also a challenge. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), established in 2010, encourages the use of alternative energy technologies for power generation and water desalination. The K.A.CARE set a 54GW renewable energy target: Some 16GW is to come from Photovoltaic (PV) and 25GW from Concentrated Solar Power (CSP); 9GW from wind; 3GW from waste-to-energy; and 1GW from geothermal. Energy experts said that costs of PV and CSP have been declining substantially in recent years – a trend that is expected to continue.
The UAE have been at the forefront of renewables investment to date, with Abu Dhabi adopting a 7% target for installed electricity capacity equivalent to 1.5GW by 2020. Masdar Power, in a Joint Venture with TOTAL and Spain’s Abengoa, completed the Shams 1 CSP 100MW plant in Madinat Zayed and sponsors a 30MW wind installation at Sir Bani Yas. In the planning stage are the 100MW Noor 1 PV plant, Taqa’s 100MW waste-to-energy plant, and a 500MW solar rooftop programme.
Other GCC countries to embark on renewables are Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. The State of Kuwait recently announced a target of 1% of electricity generation to derive from renewables by 2015, 10% by 2020, and 15% by 2030, of which the latter figure will be equivalent to 2GW. Oman has set a target of 10% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2020, and Qatar expects to generate some 2% (640MW) of electricity from CSP by 2020. The Kingdom of Bahrain wants to implement a 5% renewable energy target by 2020.
Strategic Commodities are Where you Find ThemThree countries in the MENA region – Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia – are known to host significant quantities of strategic commodities like tantalum, tin, and rare earth elements (REE). In Egypt, Tantalum Egypt JSC (owned by Gippsland Ltd. of Claremont, Australia) and the Government of Egypt were planning to exploit tantalite ore from the Abu Dabbab and Nuweibi deposits located in the Eastern Desert. Tantalum usage has developed significantly over recent years and is now extensive in electronic applications, in super alloys, in specialty metal products, as well as in metal carbide. According to a report released by Gippsland Ltd. in 2011, it was planned to produce about 300mt (metric tons) of tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) annually from the Abu Dabbab prospect from 2013. H.C. Stark Group of Germany committed to buy 300mt/year of contained Ta2O5 for the first 10 years. Gippsland reported proven plus probable reserves of 33.18Mt (million metric tons) of ore averaging 0.0252% Ta2O5 plus 0.09% tin dioxide (SnO2) for Abu Dabbab. At Nuweibi, indicated plus inferred resources were quoted at 98Mt at an average grade of 143g/ton Ta2O5 and 95g/ton niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5).
Four Saudi Arabian deposits carrying REE and zirconium (Zr) are known to occur in peralkaline rare-metal granites in the so-called Arabian-Nubian Shield (ANS). The deposits include both light REE (LREE) and heavy REE (HREE) types, with estimated sizes ranging from 6 to 440Mt of ore with yttrium (Y) contents ranging from 0.13 to 0.52%. The country’s most promising project, Ghurayyah, contains a carbonatite-hosted REE resource of approximately 385Mt of ore averaging 245g/ton Ta2O5, 2,840g/ton Nb2O5, 8,915g/ton zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), 140g/ton uranium oxide (U3O8), and 1,270g/ton yttrium oxide (Y2O3), according to an inferred mineral resource estimate by SRK Consulting (UK) Ltd. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sources in Vienna, Austria, quote a potential for uranium in the range of up to 25,000mt of U3O8. The Ghurayyah alkaline granite stock is about 800m in surface diameter and contains disseminated tantalum and niobium ore minerals, chiefly columbite-tantalite and pyrochlore. Their distribution appears to be remarkably consistent throughout the granitic body, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS) in a report released in April 2011.
The Government of Somalia also announced proven tantalum reserves. After the discovery of tantalum mineralisation by the BGS in the 1950s, several occurrences have been explored and partly exploited in the country, among them a cassiterite- and spodumene-bearing pegmatite at Majayahan, containing a resource of 1.6Mt grading 0.018% Ta2O5. The current annual tantalum production in Somalia is estimated close to 10mt.
In Morocco, Australia’s Kasbah Resources is developing the Achmmach Tin Project. This resource was discovered by the Moroccan government agency BRPM (Bureau des Recherches et de Participations Minières) in 1985. The project is located 140km southeast of the Moroccan capital Rabat and 40km south-southwest of Meknes on the western edge of the El Hajeb Province in Northern Morocco. Project financing of the Achmmach Tin Project, with an estimated value of US$181M, commenced in the third quarter of 2014. Kasbah Resources announced that it has signed a shareholders agreement with Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) and Nittetsu Mining Company (NMC) to develop and operate the Achmmach mining project. A definitive feasibility study on the project was released at the end of March 2014 for an underground mining operation producing 5,300mt of contained tin in concentrate over a nine-year life, starting up in the second quarter of 2016.
By Stefan Nitschke