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Explorations Bring to Light Iran’s Mineral Riches
Economy, Business And Markets

Explorations Bring to Light Iran’s Mineral Riches

Iran is currently the world’s 15th biggest mineral-rich country, holding more than 7% of global mineral reserves worth over $700 billion.

Mineral experts believe that the country could easily become one of the world’s top 10, as only about one-seventh of its area has been explored so far despite the sector’s great untapped potential.

The issue of exploration has always been described as one of the major deficiencies of Iran’s mining sector. Domestic producers have faced a serious shortage of raw materials over the past decade, especially in light of the government’s emphasis on increasing production of mineral products, steel in particular.

The government has devised a 20-Year Vision Plan (2005-25) which entails the attraction of $40 billion in foreign investment into the mining sector to boost production targets across the spectrum of domestic industrial sectors, according to the head of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization and deputy minister of industries, mining and trade, Mehdi Karbasian.

The plan involves the annual manufacture of 55 million tons of steel, 800,000 tons of copper, 1.5 million tons of aluminum, 300,000 tons of zinc and 5 tons of gold by the end of 2025.

Iran is home to over 68 minerals with more than 37 billion tons of proven and 57 billion tons of potential reserves, including major deposits in coal, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromium, uranium and gold.

The numbers, though substantial, could fall short of meeting the ambitious targets set for the sector. Officials believe that the country’s proven reserves could rise substantially through further mineral exploration.

In order to make up for this deficiency, in December 2013, IMIDRO undertook exploration activities over 200,000 square kilometers over a course of three years based on a memorandum of understanding signed with the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, and the Geological Survey of Iran.

The program started by covering Sistan-Baluchestan, South Khorasan, Kerman, Yazd and Isfahan provinces, and later on moved into the western regions of the country, including Kurdestan, Zanjan and West Azarbaijan provinces.

One of the significant outcomes of IMIDRO’s exploration initiative was the discovery of two large coal and iron ore reserves in early 2015. Over 200 million tons of iron ore reserves and 120 million tons of coal were discovered in Sangan Mine, located in the eastern province of Khorasan Razavi.

The discovery, according to Karbasian, significantly added to the reserves of high-quality iron ore found in the country’s central Lut Desert in 2014.

  New Discoveries

About 4.5 tons of gold reserves have been discovered in Sistan-Baluchestan Province’s Siah Jangal region, announced the head of exploration operations of IMIDRO, Ali Asgharzadeh, on Sunday, adding that the region holds over 10 tons of potential gold reserves.

According to the official, the plan was accelerated by the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program and foreign companies’ newfound interest in entering Iran’s mining sector.

Asgharzadeh added that IMIDRO is cooperating with German and Canadian companies in implementing its mineral exploration projects in Sistan-Baluchestan and South Khorasan provinces in search of new chromite reserves at one-third of the project’s previous costs by using modern exploration technologies.

Parisa Abedpour, a member of West Azarbaijan Province’s Industries, Mining and Trade Organization, announced on Sunday that 1.3 billion tons of mineral deposits, including gold, titanium, barite, mica, dolomite and ornamental stones, have been discovered in the province ever since IMIDRO launched exploration projects.

According to Abedpour, the figure could grow even further as only 8% of the province’s total area has been explored so far.

West Azarbaijan is home to some of Iran’s largest mineral deposits, including the Zarshouran Gold Mine, with a proven reserve of 108 tons and an output of 3 tons of ingots per year with a grade of 4.5 grams per ton.

Further explorations are expected to increase the reserves’ estimated capacity to 150 tons. Zarshouran is the richest of Iran’s six major gold mines, according to IMIDRO.

IMIDRO also published a report in April on exploration projects’ progress in Yazd Province in the last Iranian year (March 2015-16).

According to the report, over 4,800 square kilometers of potential mineral zones containing gold, copper, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, titanium, vanadium and antimony were discovered in the province during the period.

Proven reserves identified so far include 61.5 million tons of iron ore, 9.5 million tons of vanadium and 68,800 tons of titanium.

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