Mining Tourism: An Untapped Potential
Mining tourism deals with the history of mining in a given region and involves tours of both abandoned and active mines.
A number of developed countries, such as Australia, Canada, Germany and Norway, have tapped into the potential of mining (or mine) tourism, but the sector remains unknown and obscure in Iran that has a rich mining history.
To address the issue and help develop mining tourism in Iran, the Industries Ministry has launched a scheme known as the National Mine Tourism Plan, an initiative led by Aydin Zeynalzadeh, an official at the ministry's Mineral Exploration Department.
Identifying mines with tourism potential is a two-step process: First, provincial offices of the Industries Ministry devise a list of active and abandoned mines that could be used for tourism. Then, the list is shortened to only include mines with the best tourism potential.
In cooperation with Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the ministry is expected to launch the country's first mine tours in Kerman Province, according to YJC.
Quoting Mehdi Hosseininejad, the head of the provincial office of the Industries Ministry, the news agency reported on Friday that coal mines located in Zarand, Kouhbanan and Ravar have been earmarked for tourism purposes.
"A large number of mines in Kerman have tourism potential … We're working closely with tourism officials to implement mine tours in the province," Hosseininejad said.
-- Catching On
In a 2015 interview with Madan24.ir, Zeynalzadeh said the concept of mine tourism is "catching on faster than we had anticipated".
He said officials were expected to "spend a lot of time and energy on promoting this niche tourism category, but the media helped spread the word".
However, the official noted at the time that not everything is going well.
"There are certain tourism groups that want to initiate mine tours and essentially get one over us," Zeynalzadeh said, adding that this is not the time for competition.
"This is a nascent tourism category and right now everyone has to work together to build a foundation first."
Mining tourism can provide a plethora of benefits to the region, including job creation and environmental conservation.
"Abandoned mines leave environmental footprints, but we can compensate the damage and raise public awareness by repurposing mines to sites of tourism," he said.
Zeynalzadeh noted that abandoned mines have no financial benefits, so using them for tourism purposes makes sound financial sense.
"This will help encourage people from other cities [such as Tehran] where there is no mining to get out and visit these sites," he said.