Economy, Business And Markets

Iran 2nd Leading Lead, Zinc Producer in MENA

Iran 2nd Leading Lead, Zinc Producer in MENAIran 2nd Leading Lead, Zinc Producer in MENA

Iran is the second leading producer of lead and zinc in the Middle East and North Africa region after Turkey, according to a report recently published by the US Geological Survey on Iran’s nonfuel minerals.

To reach the government’s 2025 target output of 300,000 tons of zinc per year, an average annual growth rate of 12% would be required starting in 2016, four times more than the 3% registered in the previous decade.

Processors use only 35-40% of their 2 million tons/year total capacity owing to insufficient ore production at mines. The total refining capacity of 60 active processing units in the country is 450,000 tons/year of zinc ingots and 420,000 tons/year of lead ingots.

Iran’s zinc per capita consumption stands at about 1.14 kg, compared to about 5.9 kg for West European countries, 3.4 kg for North America and 2.5 kg for China.

Lead per capita consumption is about 0.93 kg, compared to Europe’s 4 kg and China’s 1.7 kg.

Iran exports about 80% of its zinc and lead ingot output. In 2015, exports amounted to 125,100 tons of zinc ingots and 101,900 tons of lead ingots, valued at $197 and $141 million, whereas imports were only 49,300 tons and 2,700 tons, respectively.

Iran’s two largest zinc mines are Mehdiabad with reserves of 400 million tons of ore grading at 2% zinc and Angouran, with reserves of 9 million tons of ore grading at 26% zinc and 6% lead.

Angouran, located in Zanjan Province, is one of the oldest mines in the country. Extraction in this mine dates back to the 1960s. 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 remaining is on the surface.

The capacity of Angouran Mine increased from 0.7 million tons/year to 1 million tons/year in 2014 by Calcimin Company. In 2015, a total of 750,000 tons of zinc and lead ore were extracted from the mine through both open-pit and underground mining. At such a rate, the mine’s reserves would be exhausted by 2027.

Angouran’s ore was processed by 78 zinc and lead plants located in the vicinity of the mine in Zanjan Province, most of which were relatively small. The three largest processors were Calcimin Company with 500,000 tons/year of zinc and 30,000 tons/year of lead capacity, Zangan Zinc Industry LLP with 250,000 tons/year of zinc capacity and Zanjan Zinc Khales Sazan Industries Company’s 200,000 tons/year of zinc and 20,000 tons/year of lead capacity.

Based on plans by the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, after the zinc deposits in Angouran mine run out, the 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.

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

In March 2015, operations resumed after a $1 billion investment by Mehdiabad Zinc Company, a subsidiary of Karoun Dez Dasht Group, which had a 25-year extraction license to the site. The mine’s processing unit had a current capacity of 100,000 tons/year of zinc concentrate, which was planned to be increased to at least 800,000 tons/year.

Mehdiabad Mine has zinc, lead and silver deposits. It has up to 400 million tons of reserves, 70% of which are zinc and the rest are lead, silver and barite.

Mehdiabad Zinc continued waste stripping operations in the Mehdiabad Mine. The company planned to strip 180 million tons of waste from the mine, whereas only 10 million tons had been stripped in the previous six decades. It also plans to build a processing unit near the mine with a capacity of 100,000 tons/year of zinc and lead ingots by 2018.