Economy, Business And Markets

Iran Boasts Broad Spectrum of Massive Mineral Wealth

Iran Boasts Broad Spectrum of Massive Mineral WealthIran Boasts Broad Spectrum of Massive Mineral Wealth

Iran is blessed with an abundance of underground riches, as it is home to various world-class mines holding minerals as common as iron ore to rare metals such as gold and turquoise.

The country possesses over 68 types of minerals with more than 37 billion tons of proven and 57 billion tons of potential reserves, including large deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromium, uranium and gold.

According to the United States Geological Survey, Iran holds the world's largest zinc, ninth largest copper, 12th largest iron ore and 10th largest uranium reserves. Overall, Iran holds more than 7% of global mineral reserves.

> Copper

Sarcheshmeh Copper Mine, located in Kerman Province, is the world's second largest and the Middle East's largest open-pit copper mine. The mine possesses over 826 million tons of proven and 1.2 billion tons of estimated copper reserves that constitute 5% of the world's total, alongside substantial amounts of minerals such as molybdenum, gold and rare metals.

The mine was first discovered in 1928, but it was not until nearly 40 years later that detailed exploration projects were undertaken. In 1967, Kerman Copper Industries Company was established in partnership with a British firm, which led to the discovery of 400 million tons of copper reserves. It lacked the means and the financial capability to operate the mine and was therefore purchased by the government.

In the early 1970s, state-owned Sarcheshmeh Copper Mines Corporation took over the mine and approached the American Anaconda Copper Mining Company to utilize its expertise in copper mining.

The copper complex was established and production kicked off up until the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, which brought about the nationalization of SCMC and Anaconda's assets and the establishment of NICICO, currently Iran's largest copper producer.

Sungun is the country's second largest copper mine located in East Azarbaijan Province, which holds over 470 million tons of proven and 1 billion tons of potential reserves with an average purity of 0.6%. Although operational for over 20 years, the mining complex is still relatively underdeveloped and is only capable of producing copper concentrate. The product has to be transported to Kerman Province for further refining and processing.

> Iron Ore

Iran accounts for about 3% of global iron ore reserves estimated at 4.5 billion tons with over 200 ore deposits. The significant reserves have enabled the country to become the ninth largest iron ore and the 14th largest steel producer globally.

Sangan Iron Ore Mine holds Iran's largest iron ore reserves estimated at about 1.2 billion tons. As Iran's largest iron ore open-pit mine, it has the capacity to produce 15 million tons of iron ore pellets and 17.5 million tons of concentrate annually, according to Mehdi Karbasian, the head of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization.

The mine, located in Khaf County in Khorasan Razavi Province, is part of the "huge reserves of high-quality iron ore found in the country's central Lut Desert", according to Karbasian.

The country's second-largest iron ore mine is Golgohar, located 55 kilometers south of Sirjan County in Kerman Province.

Based on archeological findings, the mine has been exploited for over 900 years. Exploration projects first undertaken in 1969 estimated Golgohar's total reserves to be close to 1.1 billion tons.

The next significant iron ore deposit lies at the heart of Iran's Central Desert. Chadormalu Iron Ore Mine, located in the south of Tabas City in Yazd Province, was first discovered in 1940 and not exploited until about 20 years later. It holds over 400 million tons of proven iron ore reserves. The company in charge of the mine, Chadormalu Mining and Industrial Complex, is one of the Middle East's largest iron ore concentrate producers with the production capacity of 7 million tons of the industrial material per year.

> Lead and Zinc

Some of the country's most abundant lead and zinc reserves are found at Angouran Mine located in Zanjan Province, with a zinc concentration of 26% and lead concentration of 6% and overall proven reserves of 23 million tons.

Angouran is one of the oldest mines in the country, the extraction of which dates back to the 1960s. It has the capacity to produce 2.4 million tons of lead and zinc ingots per year.

However, over 50 years of exploitation have left the mine's reserves nearly depleted. According to Angouran Lead and Zinc Complex's manager, Mansour Sheibani, only about 9 million tons of minerals are left in the mine, 2 million tons of which are in underground reserves while the rest are on the surface.

"With the current annual extraction rate of 750,000 tons of minerals, the mine will be exhausted by 2027," he said.

"Undertaking more exploration operations in the Angouran region could lead to the discovery of more reserves".

Based on plans by the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, after the zinc deposits in Angouran mine run out, Mehdiabad Zinc and Lead Mine, located in the central province of Yazd, is supposed to be the main supplier of lead and zinc to domestic industries.

Mehdiabad Mine is a world-class oxide, sulfide and mixed oxide/sulfide zinc, lead and silver deposit. It has up to 400 million tons of reserves, 70% of which are zinc and the rest are lead, silver and barite.

Operations at the mine started several years ago after a joint venture was formed between the Australian company Union Capital Limited and miming and engineering company Iran ITOK. But after the two investors demanded that the government give up the ownership of the mine, the operation in Mehdiabad came to a halt.

Operations resumed at the mine following a $1 billion investment by the Iranian company Karoun Dez Dasht.

> Turquoise

For over 2,000 years, Iran's Neyshabour Turquoise Mine has remained the world's leading supplier of this precious gemstone. The mine, which is one of the oldest and largest in the world, holds more than 8,250 tons of proven reserves and produces nearly 40 tons of different grades of turquoise every year.

The quality of Neyshabour turquoise is unmatched, as it comes with a deep, long-lasting blue hue and is less porous compared to other offerings.

> Gold

Zarshouran Gold Mine, located 35 kilometers from Takab town in the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan is Iran's richest gold deposit, holding over 110 tons of the exquisite mineral.

Further explorations in the area are expected to increase the reserve's estimated capacity to 150 tons.

The mine draws on a special method developed by an Iranian company, which uses chemical reactions for extracting gold.

So far, more than $44 million have been invested on the development of the mine which, in addition to gold, has the capacity to produce 2.5 tons of silver and 1 ton of mercury per year.

Dashkasan gold mine in the western province of Kurdistan is the country's second-largest gold deposit with 63 tons of estimated reserve, followed by Agh Darreh and Kharavan in northwestern Iran, each with a capacity of 30 tons.

Kouh-Zar in the northeastern Khorasan Razavi Province with 15 tons and Mouteh in the central Isfahan Province with 14 tons of gold reserve are Iran's fourth and fifth biggest gold mines respectively.

In terms of the grade, Kharavan (4 grams per ton), Kouh-Zar (3.3), Agh Darreh (2.7) and Mouteh (2.5) follow Zarshooran respectively.

Not surprisingly, following the lifting of western sanction on Iran, major multinational companies have shown keen interest in making investments in Iran's mining projects.