Domestic Economy

Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects

Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects
Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects
Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects
Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects
Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects
Iran’s Nonfuel Minerals Industry: Present Status, Future Prospects

The geological features of Iran consist of a complex tectonic framework within the broader Alpine-Himalayan orogenic belt and hosts deposits of more than 68 fuel and nonfuel mineral commodities.

Metallic mineral resources occur predominantly within igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Tethyan Eurasian Metallogenic Belt, particularly along the Urumieh-Dokhtar Magmatic Belt situated along a northwest-southeast axis.

The government-run Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization planned to identify new nonfuel mineral deposits—particularly those of bauxite, copper, gold, iron ore, rare-earth elements and zinc.

Prospecting efforts would initially focus on an area of 44,800 square kilometers in six zones. The new exploration program would eventually expand to 240,000 square km of territory within 12 provinces.

By comparison, a total area of 100,000 square km had been explored in Iran in the 20th century, reads a report released by the US Geological Survey this week on Iran’s nonfuel mineral industry.

Excerpts of the report follow:

The US Geological Survey estimates that Iran holds globally significant reserves of feldspar (2nd largest in the world), barite (fifth largest), gypsum (fifth largest), fluorspar (eighth largest) and iron ore (10th largest).

Nonfuel mineral ore reserves (proven, probable and possible) were as follows: copper ore, 4.2 billion tons, of which 1.9 billion tons were reportedly proven reserves; iron ore, 2.7 billion tons; bauxite and aluminum sources, 1.2 billion tons; kaolin, 100 million tons; phosphate rock, 16.5 million tons; zinc, 11 million tons; barite, 10 million tons; manganese, 9.7 million tons; chromium, 8.5 million tons; and gold, 340 million tons.

  Minerals in National Economy

Iran’s nominal gross domestic product was $425.3 billion in 2014, making Iran the third largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region after Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The country had an extensive mineral production and processing industry that produced more than 40 mineral commodities.

Mining accounted for less than 1% of the country’s GDP, whereas mineral processing, of which aluminum, cement, copper, and steel production were significant components, contributed an additional 4% of GDP in 2014.  IMIDRO planned to double the contribution of mining and quadruple that of mineral processing within the next decade.

 Mineral Commodity Production

Iran ranked among the top 15 producers in the world for nine nonfuel mineral commodities in 2014. For gypsum and barite, the country’s shares of world production were particularly significant, making it the second largest producer of gypsum and the sixth leading producer of barite, with 6.1% and 3.6% of world output, respectively.

Iran was also the world’s seventh leading producer of cement, feldspar and fluorspar; eighth leading producer of bentonite; ninth leading producer of molybdenum; 11th leading producer of iron ore; and 14th leading producer of crude steel.  Within the MENA region, Iran ranked first in output for copper, fluorspar, gypsum, iron ore and molybdenum. It also ranked second after Morocco for barite and after Turkey for bentonite, cement, crude steel, feldspar, lead and zinc. Iran was not a globally or regionally significant producer of alumina, aluminum, bauxite or gold.

IMIDRO, which owns and operates most of the country’s mines and mineral processing facilities, aims to substantially increase the volume of Iran’s total mineral output to 200 million tons by 2025. As production levels for many industrial minerals were already relatively high, output targets have been established primarily for metals. Accordingly, Iran plans to quadruple the output of aluminum, copper cathode, direct-reduced iron and iron ore pellets; triple that of crude steel and gold; and double that of cement, pig iron and zinc.

At levels envisioned by the government, Iran would become the leading producer of nonfuel mineral commodities in the MENA region, but would still trail Algeria in zinc production, Egypt in gold, Turkey in steel and the UAE in aluminum.

Except for cement, gold and iron ore, annual growth rates needed to reach the 2025 production targets significantly exceed those realized in the past decade. This highlights the substantial amount of investment required by Iran’s minerals industry.

The government of Iran estimated funds required for building and upgrading mines and facilities to exceed $29 billion, a substantial portion of which it hoped would be provided through foreign investment.

  Improving Outlook

Iran’s nonfuel mineral output is expected to improve in the post-sanctions era as new deposits are identified or developed across the country and facility capacities are expanded with a view towards diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbons.

In particular, the production of aluminum, alumina, bauxite, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, steel and zinc may increase as a result of the identification of mineral deposits in previously unexplored areas, construction and (or) expansion of mineral extraction and processing complexes, and upgrading of existing mines and facilities as planned by the government.

Research is being officially funded for the development of other nonfuel mineral resources, such as rare-earth elements contained in iron-oxide-phosphate deposits. Recovery of byproduct minerals contained in copper ore, such as molybdenum and other metals, may add value to existing mining operations.

The lifting of western sanctions over Iran’s civilian nuclear program is expected to result in higher inflows of foreign direct investment into the country’s mineral sector.

As of June 2016, IMIDRO was in talks with Australia’s Rio Tinto Group, Switzerland’s Glencore plc, Netherland’s Trafigura Beheer BV and Germany’s Aurubis AG on the development of new aluminum, copper, gold and steel projects in Iran and National Iranian Copper Industries Company sought foreign investment in 16 copper production capacity expansion projects.

Whether annual mineral commodity production increases as rapidly as envisioned by the government will depend largely on integration of modern technology into facilities; provision of energy to aluminum, copper and steel plants at competitive prices to international investors; stabilization of, or increase in, global metal prices for aluminum, copper, and zinc; and growth of exports in the face of competition for foreign markets by other major mineral producers, such as Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries.

Iran’s predominantly young, educated workforce may contribute to the country’s minerals industry through labor force, technology and demand factors.



Iran's Q1 Mineral Trade Surplus Exceeds $1b

Iran exported some $1.9 billion of mineral products in the first quarter of the current fiscal year (started March 20), while imports of these products stood at $821 million during the same period, Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization reported.

The steel industry, Iran's largest and most heavily invested mineral sector, was the biggest exporting sector during the three-month period, accounting for $938 million or 47.58% of the overall $1.9 billion figure.

Other exported minerals include copper, iron ore, cement, stones, lead, zinc, aluminum, ferroalloys, chromium, molybdenum, coal, precious metals, titanium and mica in a descending order based on the value of exports.

The steel sector also held the highest share of imports. Over $580 million worth of steel products were imported in spring, accounting for 70% of all mineral imports.

Other imported minerals included aluminum, titanium, unprocessed coal and coking coal, copper, stones, iron ore, nickel, cement, chromium and antimony in a descending order based on the value of imports.

China was the main export destination for Iranian mineral products, importing $400 million. Other destinations were Iraq ($216 million), the UAE ($208 million), Turkey ($195 million), Italy ($133 million), Oman ($108 million), Spain ($104 million), Afghanistan ($73.5 million), Taiwan ($73.3 million) and India ($65 million).

China was also the biggest exporter of minerals to Iran with $321 million. Other exporters were the UAE ($158), India ($83 million), South Korea ($77 million), Turkey ($47 million), Germany ($38 million), Taiwan ($15 million), Italy ($11 million), Azerbaijan ($7.6 million) and Russia ($7.02 million).

Mineral trade figures in the last Iranian year (March 2015-16) showed $7 billion for exports and $4.44 billion for imports.