Economy, Business And Markets

Iran Exports Alumina for First Time

Iran Exports Alumina  for First TimeIran Exports Alumina  for First Time

Iran has exported its first consignment of alumina or aluminum oxide to Tajikistan, the general manager of industry, mine, and trade office at North Khorasan province told IRNA.

Yahya Nikdel said the 10,000-ton consignment was Iran's first export to its northern neighbor, and that a 25% of Iran Alumina Company's products is scheduled to be annually exported to Tajikistan.

The company, with an annual production capacity of 210,000 tons, produces only 160,000 tons of alumina. The decision to export a quarter of the annual product comes as even the entire production volume does not meet domestic needs.

Alumina is made from bauxite, a naturally occurring ore containing variable amounts of hydrous aluminum oxides. The material is mainly used in aluminum metallurgy, industrial ceramics, and chemical processing.

Alumina, which is produced as a powder, is used by domestic aluminum producers such as Almahdi Hormozal and Iranian Aluminum companies, which are still in debt to Iran Alumina Company, said Nikdel.

He added that major aluminum producers created a monopoly in buying alumina and therefore bought the company's alumina at very low prices during the previous government.

But the Rouhani administration ended the monopoly and allowed the alumina company to export the substance which is also used as filler in plastic industry and as a catalyst in chemical plants.

Based on Nikdel's claim, domestic aluminum manufacturers owe some 2,100 billion rials ($646 million) to Iran Alumina Company.

According to the Parliament's research center, published last month, the most serious challenge facing the country's aluminum industry is supplying the raw material, bauxite.

The country's biggest proven reserve for bauxite is Jajaram bauxite mine in North Khorasan province which has less than 20 million tons of bauxite.

Every four kilograms of bauxite yields 1.93 kilograms of alumina; while it takes 1.93 kilograms of alumina to produce one kilogram of aluminum. Therefore, the biggest bauxite reserve in the country will merely yield 2.6 million tons of aluminum. This is while, based on Iran's 20-Year Vision Plan, as much as 1.5 million tons of aluminum should be annually produced by 2025.

In addressing the challenge, Iran has reached an agreement with Guinea Conakry, which is the world's second largest producer of bauxite. Based on the agreement, Iran is licensed to explore and extract 600 million tons of bauxite in the African country. The titanic project needs at least $400 to $500 million of investment.

Other challenges in the country's aluminum sector include providing a sustainable source of power for the industry, and the lack of state-of-the-art technology in the process of producing the strategic metal.