EghtesadOnline: Over 1.7 billion tons of mineral reserves have been discovered so far this year, the head of mineral explorations at the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade said.
The current Iranian year ends on March 20, 2017.
“A total of 127 mineral zones spanning 485,000 square kilometers were discovered during the period. A hundred and two zones were handed over to the private sector for initiating extraction, while the rest found no patron due to the Department of Environment’s objections and the players’ lack of interest,” Asadollah Keshavarz was also quoted as saying by IRNA in Qom Province in Thursday.
According to Keshavarz, Iran's potential mineral reserves are even higher than the total discovered figures, as explorations have not yet gone deeper than the average of 20 meters due to limited technologies, while the global average standard stands at 80 meters, according to Financial Tribune.
“We still do not know what precious minerals lie deeper. Our studies have shown that there are reserves up to 1,100 meters underground,” he said.
Behrouz Borna, the deputy head of explorations at the Geological Survey of Iran, believes lack of investment in the mining sector is preventing the realization of its true potential.
“We have barely attracted enough investment in exploration and extraction operations. This is while Iran holds about 3% of the world’s mineral reserves with a potential value added of $770 billion,” he said, adding that only $1 billion have been invested in the sector in the past 20 years.
Iran is located on the Alpine-Himalayan Belt, one of the world’s richest metallogenic belts that hold 15% of the world’s mineral reserves. About 12.5% of the belt’s total length passes through Iran.
Also known as the Alpide Belt, it is a seismic belt that includes an array of mountain ranges extending along the southern margin of Eurasia, stretching from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic. It includes the Alps, the Carpathians, the Pyrenees, the mountains of Anatolia and Iran, the Hindu Kush and the mountains of Southeast Asia.
According to Mehdi Karbasian, the head of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, 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.
In fact, IMIDRO’s mineral exploration project initiated in 2013 is aimed at exploring 250,000 square kilometers of Iran's surface area in three years.
Iran is home to 68 types of minerals with more than 37 billion tons of proven and 57 billion tons of potential reserves. The numbers, although substantial, could prove inadequate for the realization of the industry’s capacity expansion targets.
The 20-Year Vision Plan (2005-25) stipulates an 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.
> Qom Province's Untapped Potential
Qom Province is home to more than 2% of Iran’s total mineral deposits. Its relatively small size–11,240 square kilometers–and its proximity to other provinces requiring mineral feedstock offer a lucrative opportunity for investment and exploitation.
According to Borna, the province holds reserves of manganese, agate, gypsum, salt and sulfate, and some potential reserves of gold.
Greater investment can significantly raise Qom’s mineral output.
Venarch manganese mine, the Middle East and Iran’s largest deposit of the mineral is located about 30 kilometers southeast of the city of Qom. It holds about 8 million tons of manganese with an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons per year. Venarch feeds the bulk of Iran’s demand for the mineral.
Manganese is a metal with important industrial alloy uses, particularly in the production of stainless steel. It is also used in the manufacture of corrosion-resistant aluminum alloys.
The province’s salt lake is also an underdeveloped source of revenue for the mining sector. A salt lake is located approximately 100 kilometers east of the city of Qom.
According to GSI, the lake’s reserves include 32 million tons of magnesium, 200 million tons of sodium chloride and 5.4 million tons of potassium chloride, valued at more than $20 billion. It is currently exploited only for its salt reserves.