Mining in Iran

Mining in Iran
Industry and Mining from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency map of Iran 1978.

Mining in Iran is under-developed. Yet the country is one of the most important mineral producers in the world, ranked among 15 major mineral rich countries,[1] holding some 68 types of minerals, 37 billion tonnes of proven reserves and more than 57 billion tonnes of potential reservoirs.[2] Mineral production contributes only 0.6 per cent to the country’s GDP.[3] Add other mining-related industries and this figure increases to just four per cent (2005). Many factors have contributed to this, namely lack of suitable infrastructure, legal barriers, exploration difficulties, and government control over all resources.

The most important mines in Iran include coal, metallic minerals, sand and gravel, chemical minerals and salt. Khorasan has the most operating mines in Iran. Other large deposits which mostly remain underdeveloped are zinc (world's largest), copper (world's second largest), iron (world's ninth largest), uranium (world's tenth largest) and lead (world's eleventh largest).[4][5][6][7] Iran with roughly 1% of the world's population holds more than 7% of the world's total mineral reserves.[8]



Close to 30 percent of the country’s investment has been made in the mining field in recent years. In 2008, forty five percent of the stock market's capitalization was in the mineral industries.[9] In 2008 the share of the mining sector and mineral industries increased to over five percent in GDP.[9] The sector with the highest profit margin among the top 100 Iranian companies in 2009 was mining, with a margin of 58%, while those in the Fortune 500 had a gross profit margin of 11%.[10] In the first quarter of 2009–2010, Iran exported close to 5.6 million tons of mineral products worth over $1.2 billion.[11] In 2009–2010 the mining sector had exports reaching $8.13 billion, accounting for about 32 percent of the country’s non-oil exports.[12] Every year, the iron ore price is determined by the government after negotiations between iron ore and steel producers. In 2008, the average price of iron ore was set at $56 per tonne. The steel, cement and iron ore prices are currently being liberalized in Iran.

In 2005, of 3125 operating mines, 2747 and 378 mines were run by private and public sectors respectively.[13] As of 2010, 5,574 mines are being exploited in 30 provinces of the country (which are active, inactive or in the state of being equipped).[12] The rate of extraction from these mines stood at approximately 217.5 million tons in previous years. More than 100,000 people are presently engaged in the mines sector while as a whole some 500,000 people are employed in the mine sector.[12] The number of operating mining units stands at 20,375.[2][12] National Iranian mining company is the world's 23rd largest mining company with 0.6% of the world's total mining production.[14]

Exploration projects implemented by the National Geology and Mineral Exploration Organization in the three years period of 2005–2008 are six times higher than the figure for the same period during the previous government.[15] Since 2005, mortality rate in mining mishaps has declined to one death for every 10 million tons of mining production from the previous figure of six million tons.[16]


Although the petroleum industry provides the majority of economic revenues, about 75 percent of all mining sector employees work in mines producing minerals other than oil and natural gas. These include coal, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromium,[17] barite (world's sixth largest producer[18]), salt, gypsum, molybdenum, strontium,[19] silica, uranium, and gold (most as a coproduct of the Sar Cheshmeh copper complex operations). The mines at Sar Cheshmeh in Kerman Province contain the world's second largest lode of copper ore (5% of the world's total). Some 128,500 tons were extracted in 2000–2001. Large iron ore deposits exist in central Iran, near Bafq, Yazd, and Kerman.

Iran produces orpiment and realgar arsenic concentrates, silver, asbestos, borax, hydraulic cement, clays (bentonite, industrial, and kaolin), diatomite, feldspar, fluorspar, turquoise, industrial or glass sand (quartzite and silica), lime, magnesite, nitrogen (of ammonia and urea), perlite, natural ocher and iron oxide mineral pigments, pumice and related volcanic materials, caustic soda, stones and decorative stones (including granite, marble, travertine, dolomite, and limestone),[20] celestite, natural sulfates (aluminum potassium sulfate and sodium sulfate), amber, tungsten, agate, lapislazuli[21] and talc. Iran also produces ferromanganese, ferromolybdenum, nepheline syenite, demantoids,[22] phosphate rock, selenium, shell, andalusite, rockwool, garnet,[23] gabbro, diorite, vermiculite, attapulgite,[24] calcium, barium, rare earth elements, scandium, yttrium[25][26] and zeolite, and had the capacity to mine onyx.[27]

Iron and Steel

Iron ore

In 2009 Iran will produce 25.5 million tons of iron ore (fines, lumps and concentrate),[28][29][30] – Alternatively, U.S. Geological Survey ranked Iran, the 8th largest producer of iron ore in 2009 with 33 million tons of output.[31]

  • Chadormalu Mining and Industrial Company produced 9,498,000 mt of iron ore. It is the largest iron ore producer listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange,[32]
  • Gol-e-Gohar Iron Ore Company produced 7,209,000 mt of iron ore; Gol-e-Gohar pellet plant near the southern city of Sirjan, the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, uses iron ore concentrates from the Gol-e-Gohar mine in the province.[33] The new plant produces five million tonnes of iron ore per year; enough for production of 2.5 million tonnes of steel.[33]
  • Iran Central Iron Ore Company produced 5,310,000 mt, with the remainder produced by other smaller public sector miners.[34] In 2009, Iran exported about 10 million metric tons of iron ore, mainly to China.[30]

Tariffs for the export of iron ore concentrate and pellet have been set at 50% and 35% respectively (2010).[35]


Mobarakeh Steel Mill in Esfahan is Iran's largest steel mill.

Steel production capacity will reach 17 million tons from 10 million tons in 2009 after the private and state projects come on stream, and 40 million tons in 2012.[29] Main steel mills are located in Esfahan and Khuzestan.[36][37]

Major raw steel producers in Iran are:[38]

Other notable or new steel producers in Iran are:[36][37]

  • Azerbaijan Steel Company,
  • Iran Steel Alloy Company,
  • Ahvaz Pipe and Rolling Company,
  • Khorasan Steel Company,
  • Natanz Steel Complex, near the city of Isfahan with annual production capacity of 800,000 tonnes of steel rods and is the largest steel rod plant in the Middle East,[39]
  • Bonab Steel Complex, in the north-western province of East Azerbaijan. The first unit is a corrugated steel bar production line, with a production capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum and is the largest of its kind in the Middle East. The second unit is a steel ingot production plant, with an annual capacity of 500,000 tonnes.[39]

Iran became self-sufficient in steel production in 2009.[40] In 2008 Iran produced 7.5 million tons of direct reduced iron (DRI). It produces 13 percent of global DRI production and 41 percent of total Middle East DRI production.[2] In addition, these projects have resulted in industrial decentralization, development of underprivileged regions, increase in GNP and promotion of industrial infrastructure.[41] Iran is the world's 16th steel producer.[42] In 2010, Iran also inaugurated the largest galvanized sheet production plant for automobiles in the Middle East in the city of Shahrekord.[43] The plant, which was financed by Iran Khodro and Saipa group, has a capacity of 400,000 tpy.[35]

Bauxite and aluminium


In 2009 Iran will produce 230,000 tons of bauxite.[44]


Aluminum production is projected to hit 245,000 tons by March 2009 (457,000 tons in 2010).[28][29] The largest plants for aluminum production in Iran are:

  • Iralco,
  • Almahdi,
  • Hormozal aluminum smelter plant in Bandar Abbas. The newly built Hormozal plant with an annual production capacity of 147,000 tonnes is a joint venture between Iran and Italy.[45]


Iran has recoverable proven coal reserves of nearly 1.9bn short tonnes, and with total estimated coal reserves of more than 50 billion short tonnes.[46][47] By mid-2008, the country produced about 1.3m short tonnes of coal annually and consumed about 1.5m short tonnes, making it a small net importer of coal.[46] Iran plans to increase hard-coal production to 5 million tons in 2012 from 2 million tons in November 2008.[48] Major coal producers and exporters in Iran are:[49]

  • Kerman Coal Company,
  • East Alborz Coal Company, and
  • Central Alborz Coal Company.


In 2009 Iran will produce 1.7 million tons of Coke.[44]

Zinc and lead

Iran has over 220 million tonnes of proven zinc and lead ore reserves. With approximately 11 million tonnes of zinc metal constituent and 5 million tonnes of lead metal constituent, Iran has just below 5% of the world’s metal constituent reserves. Two important mines in Iran are:[32]

  • Mahdi-Abad, which has 75 million tonnes of ore with a zinc concentration of 6% and a lead concentration of 2.7%,
  • Angouran mine, which has 16 million tonnes of ore with a zinc concentration of 26% and a lead concentration of 6%.

In 2009, with approximately 165,000 tonnes of production, Iran ranked first in the Middle East and 15th in the world in terms of zinc and lead production. In 2009, Iran exported 77,000 tonnes of zinc and lead concentrate and ingot.

The largest or most profitable producers of zinc and lead in Iran are:[10][32]

  • Iran Zinc Mines Development Group (largest producer),
  • Bama Mining & Industrial Co.,
  • Bafgh Mines Co.
  • Kalsimin Co. (the largest zinc producer in the Middle East)


In 2009 Iran will produce 383,000 tons of copper.[28][29] The mines at Sar Cheshmeh in Kerman Province contain the world's second largest lode of copper ore (5% of the world's total). As of 2010, Iran ranked 10th in copper production and 17th in copper cathodes production (220,000 tons).[50] In 2009, Iran exported $1.2 billion worth of copper cathodes.[50] National Iranian Copper Industries Company (NICICO) is one of the largest companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and was the largest non-oil exporter in Iran in 2010 with exports worth $1.3 billion.[51]


Based on a short-term program (2008), gold production will reach five tons per year. Under the long-term plan, the figure will rise to 25 tons per annum. The main gold-rich regions in Iran are:[52]

  • Meydouk in Shahr-e Babak (Kerman province),
  • Khorapeh in Piranshahr (West Azarbaijan),
  • Nabijan in Kalaybar, (East Azarbaijan province)
  • Alikh in Jolfa (East Azarbaijan province),
  • Logheh (Zanjan province),
  • Qolqoleh (Kurdestan province),
  • Saqqez, in the west,
  • Piranshahr in the west,
  • Maherabad, in the east,
  • Sheikhabad, in the east.

The gold mine in the city of Takab in the West Azarbaijan province (Iran's largest Gold mine) has over 4mln tons of proven gold reserves and 5.81 grams of gold can be netted from each ton of gold ore extracted from the mine.[53]


In 2009, IMIDRO reported that 9 countries including Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, Algeria, Lebanon, Ecuador, Iraq, Belarus and one of the Mid-Asian countries will have cement plants which will be constructed by Iranian engineers.[54] Iran is the 8th cement producer in world and 2nd in the Middle East, after Turkey.[55][56] In 2009 Iran produced some 65 million tons of cement per year and exported to 40 countries.[57][58] There are 57 active production units in Iran as of 2010. As of 2010, 28 cement companies were listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange. Iran constitutes 1.8% of the world’s cement production and 1.6% of the world’s cement consumption.[55] The main producers of cement are:[55]

  • Fars & Khuzestan Group is Iran’s largest producer of cement with a market share of 24%,
  • Abyek with 8% market share,
  • Tehran with 7% market share,
  • Sepahan with 6% market share.

Cement production/prices in Iran are being liberalized since 2008. The cement industry is one of the economic sectors that will be hit the hardest in Iran following of the 2010 subsidy reform plan, because many Iranian cement factories are energy inefficient.[55]

Foreign Investments

The government owns 90 per cent of all mines and related large industries in Iran and is seeking foreign investment for the development of the mining sector. In the steel and copper sectors alone, the government is seeking to raise around US$1.1 billion in foreign financing.

In the early 1990s the buy-back method of transaction (the government buys back the industrial project after the foreign direct investor has recouped his initial investment in the project plus a predefined profit) was introduced to bypass constitutional constraints on foreign investment and avoid potential political difficulties within the country. The scheme has government support for being an efficient means of attracting foreign capital, services and technical expertise, while reducing foreign exchange expenditures and expanding exports. If the Iranian Government is to fulfil its 20-year plan to improve the country’s mining sector, it’s estimated that US$20 billion, mostly in foreign investment, will be required.

  • Projects eligible for buy-back agreements and foreign loan facilities are:
Projects that complete aluminium metal production lines
Projects that mobilise coal, iron ore, steel, copper and pigment metals production
Ferro alloys projects and gold production
  • Iran imports the following equipment to support its mining sector:
Mining equipment such as drills, loaders and shovels
Support equipment such as bulldozers, graders, trucks and auxiliaries
Utility equipment such as compressed air plant equipment, water and waste-water treatment equipment
Mechanical equipment including equipment for crude ore handling, grinding, separation and treatment purposes
Laboratory and workshop equipment
Power supply and distribution equipment
Process control instruments

Most of the electrical distribution equipment for water supply and treatment utilities, along with steelworks and storage facilities are manufactured locally. There is a demand for high quality second-hand machinery in Iran. To date, doing business in Iran has had political overtones.[59] In this regard, countries which can maintain a neutral and impartial political image in the Middle East are advantaged.

Production statistics

The following is a list of some of Iran's industrial mining production and their international rankings:

Name Rank Out of Source Notes Year
Steel production by country 16th World World Steel Association/US Geological Survey More than 10.9 million tonnes produced in 2009 and 14 million tonnes produced in 2010; Iran's production capacity reached 20 million tonnes/year in 2010;[60][61][62] Iran plans to increase its steel production to more than 35 million tonnes/year by 2015 and to more than 55 million tonnes by 2020[63][64] 2009
Aluminium Oxide production 26th World British Geological Survey 130,000 tonnes/Year 2006
Bauxite production 10th World US Geological Survey Annual production of 500,000 tonnes 2008
Copper mine production 12th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 249,100 tonnes 2006
Aluminium production 17th World List of countries by aluminium production Annual production of 457,000 tonnes 2006
Cement production 5th[56] World List of countries by cement production/Pie Chart of World's Production In 2009: Annual production of 45 million tonnes, or ~1.6% of the world's total output & total production capacity of 55 million tonnes annually;[65] Iran ranks 10th globally in terms of cement export[66] 2010
Iron production 8th World US Geological Survey Annual production of 33 million tonnes 2009
Manganese production 12th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 115,000 tonnes 2006
Strontium production 5th World British Geological Survey World's fifth largest producer of strontium 2007
Zinc production 14th World US Geological Survey Annual production of 166,000 tonnes 2006
Chromium production 5th World US Geological Survey Iran produces more than 4% of world's total production 2002
Feldspar production 12th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 411,807 tonnes 2006
Bentonite production 12th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 186,323 tonnes; Alternatively ranked at 13th by US Geological Survey with production of 200,000 tonnes[67] 2006
Molybdenum production 9th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 2,000 tonnes[68] 2005
Sodium Chloride Production 15th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 2.62 million tonnes, or ~1.25% of world's total output 2006
Baryte production 6th World Baryte Production Rankings Iran produces 290,000 tonnes or ~3.67% of world's total output 2006
Gypsum production 2nd World British Geological Survey Iran is the world's second largest producer after China 2006
Iron ore production 9th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 35 million tonnes 2006
Perlite production 10th World British Geological Survey Annual production of 30,000 tonnes of perlite 2006
Silver production 19th World The Silver Institute Annual production of 3.2 millions ounces 2008
Turquoise production 1st World [citation needed] Iran is the world's oldest, finest and largest producer of turquoise 2010
Production of Soda Ash 20th World US Geological Survey Annual soda ash production of 140,000 tonnes 2006
Production of quicklime, hydrated lime including Dead-Burned Dolomite 13th World US Geological Survey Annual quicklime & dolomite production of 2.5 million tonnes 2006
Production of natural iron oxide 9th World US Geological Survey Annual natural iron oxide production of 2,600 tonnes 2006
Production of mica 9th World US Geological Survey Annual mica production of 7,000 tonnes 2006
Production of magnesite 13th World US Geological Survey Annual magnesite production of 90,000 tonnes 2006
Production of lead 16th World US Geological Survey Annual lead production of 24,000 tonnes 2006
Production of kaolin 12th World US Geological Survey Annual kaolin production of 550,000 tonnes 2006
Industrial silica production 14th World US Geological Survey Annual industrial silica production of 1.9 million tonnes 2006
Production of hydraulic cement 14th World US Geological Survey Annual hydraulic cement production of 32.7 million tonnes 2006
Production of gold 66th World British Geological Survey Iran produces 850 Kilograms of gold per year 2008
Production of ferrochromium 14th World US Geological Survey Annual ferrochromium production of 8,000 tonnes 2006
Diatomite production 20th World US Geological Survey Annual diatomite production of 8,000 tonnes 2006
Production of celestite 6th World US Geological Survey Annual celestite production of 7,500 tonnes 2006
Boron production 9th World US Geological Survey Annual boron production of 3,000 tonnes 2006
Asbestos production 9th World US Geological Survey Annual asbestos production of 5,000 tonnes 2006
Production of arsenic 11th World US Geological Survey Annual arsenic production of 100 tonnes 2006
Production of ammonia 21st World US Geological Survey Annual ammonia production of 1.02 million tonnes 2006

See also


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