Economy, Business And Markets

Silver Lining in Iran’s Mineral Resources

Silver Lining in Iran’s Mineral ResourcesSilver Lining in Iran’s Mineral Resources

Silver is found in its natural form as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine.

The principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead and lead-zinc.

The metal is primarily produced as a byproduct of electrolytic copper refining, gold, nickel and zinc refining, and by processing lead metal obtained from lead ores that contain small amounts of silver.

As Iran is home to the world’s largest zinc and ninth largest copper reserves, it has the potential to become self-sufficient in silver production. However, at present, Iranian miners are unable to process the silver found in the mined ores due to high costs and lack of technology, which deprives the country of a lucrative business as ores of high silver content are exported at cheap prices.

“In Iran, silver is usually found alongside lead, with every ton of mined lead yielding close to 3 kilograms of silver,” Behrouz Borna, Geological Survey of Iran’s deputy for mineral explorations, told SMT Daily.

Silver and its various alloys have many applications, as they are used in the manufacture of cameras, jewels, pharmaceuticals, batteries, reflective glasses and high-tech products.

  Iran’s Silver Deposits

Some of Iran’s largest silver deposits are found in Darre-Noqreh located in Isfahan Province’s Golpayegan County. The region is home to a large copper mine and its deposits are high in silver content (reaching up to 8 kg per ton of copper).

According to Borna, the mineral belt passing through Isfahan and Hamedan provinces is one of Iran’s richest sources of silver.

The country’s next largest deposit is Kerman Province’s Latala Mine, which is estimated to hold over 100 tons of silver alongside other minerals.

Semnan and Khorasan Razavi provinces’ Rashm and Zarmehr regions are also estimated to hold sizable reserves.

Isfahan’s Mouteh Gold Mine and Kerman’s Sarcheshmeh Copper Mine–one of the largest in the world–also have the potential to produce silver as a byproduct, but their potential has so far remained unexploited.

Considering Iran’s potential silver reserves, acquiring the technology to process silver can help cut down on imports.

Iran can even become a potential export market in the long run by establishing a brand for Iranian silver.

  Production Methods

Silver production, according to Ebrahim Jamili, the head of Iran Economy House, entails a complicated procedure of manufacturing lead and zinc concentrates, turning them into ingots and then reprocessing the ingot to remove its silver content.

The last step is usually foregone by lead and zinc companies.

The other more common and less costly silver production method is recycling the mineral.

“Some products such as radiology imaging plates contain silver alloys that can be reprocessed into silver ingots,” he said, adding that silver recycling is the dominant method of silver production in Iran.

The official said Iranian mineral experts have lately conducted a series of studies to improve methods of silver extraction and achieved “promising results”.

According to Jamili, these methods could transform Iran into one of the world’s leading silver producers.