Economy, Business And Markets

The Dormant Flame of Iran’s Fire Clay

The Dormant Flame of Iran’s Fire Clay
The Dormant Flame of Iran’s Fire Clay

Iran is home to the Middle East’s largest fire clay mines with refractory minerals unmatched in quality worldwide.

The country’s fire clay production sector, however, has so far been unable to unlock its true potential in the absence of export markets and the technology required for processing the mineral.

Iran’s largest fire clay mines are located in Fars and Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari provinces, with combined reserves of over 312 million tons, SMT Daily reported.

Fire clay is refractory clay used primarily in the manufacture of ceramics, especially fire bricks. It is resistant to high temperatures as it has fusion points higher than 1,600 C. Due to its stability during firing in the kiln, it can be used to make complex items of pottery such as pipes and sanitary ware.

The Esteghlal Abadeh Mine, the largest in Middle East, is located in Fars Province and possesses more than 300 million tons of proven reserves. The mine accounts for over 85% of the province’s fire clay production with a 2 million-ton annual output. The substantial reserves allow for operations to last for 250 years at current extraction rate.

The mine provides feedstock for over 150 tiles and ceramic factories around the country and has created 2,000 employment opportunities in the province.

Iran’s other significant fire clay deposit is found in Shahid Nilchian Mine, which is home to 12 million tons of 75% pure proven reserves of the mineral. The mine, established in 1968, is located in Kiar County of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Province.

According to Behzad Ebrahimi, an official with the provincial industries, mining and trade organization, the mine has the highest grade among all fire clay mines in the Middle East.

Out of the total of 50 fire clay mines in Iran, Esteghlal Abadeh is the only producer that has embarked on the export of the mineral to date, drawing on proximity to free waters in the south of the country.

However, according to the mine’s manager Ali Tamaddon, the 300,000 tons per year exports from Esteghlal Abadeh to a few Persian Gulf littoral states can be significantly expanded as there is high demand for fire clay in European countries with expertise in the ceramic industry such as Italy and Spain.

Tamaddon says increasing production and transportation costs and outdated exploitation and processing equipment have obstructed the sector’s path to growth, adding that further processing of fire clay can increase its value by up to 20 times.

With the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear energy program and the reintegration of many Iranian industries into the international markets, the domestic fire clay miners can gain access to modern processing technology and take advantage of the sector’s unique capabilities and position in the region.