EghtesadOnline: Blessed by a plethora of mineral reserves, Iran has been making use of the opening that followed the nuclear agreement it reached with world powers, officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to develop its mining sector with an eye to growing its economy held back by many years of international sanctions. The implementation of JCPOA in January 2016 marked the official end of those sanctions.
The public relations of Iranian Mines & Mining Industries Development & Renovation organization has published an interview recently conducted by Iranian monthly Payam Darya with the chairman of the organization, Mehdi Karbasian, on how IMIDRO has been taking advantage of the above-mentioned opportunities.
IMIDRO is a state-run enterprise and Iran's biggest holding company active in the mining sector.
According to Financial Tribune, the full text of the interview is as follows:
Iran enjoys a large volume and a wide variety of mineral resources, particularly iron ore. What macro approaches has IMIDRO taken to utilize these capacities? Is it selling raw materials, or it is selling final products by developing a production chain?
Given that we have one of the largest gas resources in the world and we have access to inexpensive energy, it is crystal clear that we have opted for creating a production chain to preserve our national interests, enhance production in the country and gain benefit from iron ore and other minerals’ added value.
We have been very successful in the steel industry: We have boosted Iran’s steel production capacity from 21 million tons to 31 million tons in the past four years. Besides, we have taken successful steps in completing the steel production chain as well as producing its subsidiary products such as concentrate, pellet and sponge iron.
Pellet is one of the main materials needed for steel production. Considering large pellet production factories in Iran such as Chadormalu Mining and Industrial Company and Yazd Steel Complex, are we self-sufficient in this regard? If so, do you have any plans for exporting pellet?
I am afraid not. As I already stated, we possess inexpensive energy, and hence, we intend to focus on the final product.
Steel industry is a top priority for us. To this end, we have to move toward producing and delivering specific and stainless steel. In this regard, I must add that, based on the latest estimates, Iran is one of the richest countries in the field of iron ore with reserves of over 3 billion tons.
Our ultimate goal is reaching the production tonnage of 55 million tons of steel by 2025. Even though these reserves are sufficient for accomplishing these goals, IMIDRO has set out to discover more reserves in the past two years.
Based on these plans, we have managed to cover an area of 250,000 square km and managed to discover 400 million tons of resources and mines of iron ore, coal and the like. Accordingly, it could be asserted with certainty that Iran is one of the richest countries of the world, minerals-wise.
Last year, given the execution of JCPOA, Iran found a special opportunity to expand its collaborations with foreign countries and international investors. What measures did you take to absorb investments after JCPOA and what accomplishments did you make?
Without a tinge of doubt, JCPOA has been a turning point in the domestic and international arenas in recent years, since we had been encountering numerous difficulties prior to that. Large corporations and international firms refused to collaborate with us and even if some cooperation was offered, they sent their low-level experts to Iran, even without giving them the necessary authority.
Nevertheless, in the post-JCPOA era, the circumstances have completely changed and high-ranking executives of huge Canadian, Australian and European corporations have been traveling to Iran for collaboration and forging partnerships. These visits are still ongoing and they have led to the signing of valuable MOUs.
Thanks to JCPOA, we have managed to hire the most technologically updated counseling in the fields of research and training. However, things are going slow in the area of investment. It is unfortunate that the Americans and some European countries have not fulfilled the commitments made in JCPOA. Despite these conditions, we commenced the construction process of steel machineries and equipment factory in Eshtehard, Alborz Province, with the help of the Italian Danieli Group, which is a reputable corporation in this field.
Iran witnessed noticeable growth in steel production last year, in a way that it was placed among the top 15 steel manufacturing countries. Does this increase in production merely serves to cater to the domestic needs, or is exporting being considered as well?
Certainly, export is a top priority here. In fact, we set a new record for steel export in 2016. We exported approximately 4 million tons in 2015, which rate reached 6.5 million tons in 2016.
Which countries were the target markets of these exports?
The main targets were European countries. Some volumes were also exported to Asian countries such as Thailand. Overall, we have managed to earn a position in the world market for Iranian steel and we are well capable of achieving bigger successes in the future.
What plans does IMIDRO have for expanding its export market?
Given the facilities and resources at our disposal, both the prices of our products and their quality will be competitive. We do predict that by 2025, we will have reached the export capacity of 14 million tons in steel industry.
One of the accusations against Iran’s mining industry, particularly made by European countries, last year was the issue of dumping. Did this accusation have any basis? If not, how could we respond to it?
This accusation was and is absolutely baseless. The accusers had targeted Mobarakeh Steel Company that manufactures steel sheets. The accusations were made due to two main reasons: First, the competitors of Iranian steel lost their market when Iranian steel products entered Europe, so much so that the Italian automobile manufacturers submitted a written complaint to the Italian government and European Union officials, complaining that prior to purchasing Iranian steel, they used to buy steel at an unfairly expensive price in a non-competitive market. Second, as I stated earlier, Iran enjoys abundant raw materials as well as accessible and inexpensive energy. Hence, it could deliver final products that have competitive prices and by no means could this be considered dumping.