Economy, Business And Markets

3-Year Mineral Drive Comes to Fruition

3-Year Mineral Drive Comes to Fruition3-Year Mineral Drive Comes to Fruition

Over 400 million tons of iron ore, 500 million tons of coal and 90 tons of gold deposits have been discovered since the government of President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013.

"The discoveries were made after the implementation of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization's mineral exploration project," says deputy minister of industries, mining and trade, Mehdi Karbasian.

"The highlight of this project is the discovery of 300 potential mineral zones across the country. Some of the zones will be handed over to investors and the rest will be put out to tender," Karbasian, who is also the head of IMIDRO, has been quoted as saying by the organization's news portal.

Other discoveries during the period include vast reserves of polymetal, copper, antimony, zinc and lead, chromite, titanium, nickel, molybdenum, barite, phosphate and bauxite.

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

The 20-Year National Vision Plan (2005-25) envisions the attraction of $40 billion of foreign investment into the mining sector to boost production across the spectrum of domestic industrial sectors. The plan stipulates annual production 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. The numbers, although substantial, could create challenges for the realization of ambitious targets. Officials believe proven reserves could rise substantially after extensive mineral explorations.

In order to make up for this deficiency, IMIDRO undertook an operation in December 2013 to explore more than 250,000 square kilometers of the country's area over a course of three years.

According to Karbasian, the program started with covering the promising Sangan mineral zone located in Khorasan Razavi Province. The program later moved on into Sistan-Baluchestan, South Khorasan, Kerman, Yazd and Isfahan provinces, and eventually 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 mineral zone. 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.

IMIDRO conducted part of the exploration project in cooperation with German and Canadian mining companies.

The lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear energy program has enabled the domestic mining sector to attract foreign investments and modern exploration and exploitation technologies.

"Using satellite technology, foreign companies successfully explored deposits located 10,000 meters underground. This is while Iranian operations had only managed to reach the depth of 500 meters," Karbasian said.