EghtesadOnline: Four development projects in copper industry were inaugurated in Kerman Province on Thursday by President Hassan Rouhani.
A total of 2.21 trillion rials ($13.64 million) have been invested in these projects, which are said to have created more than 200 jobs, IRIB News reported.
Located in the southern province's Shahr-e Babak County, the new projects belong to development of Khatunabad Copper Refinery Plant, including the expansion of its copper anode smelting plant, a new copper concentrate storage facility, a sulfuric acid plant and an oxygen plant.
The expansion of the copper anode smelting plant has entailed technology improvement and increased copper anode production by 50%, from 80,000 tons to 120,000 tons per year.
The copper concentrate storage facility has the capacity to store 60,000 tons.
The acid plant has the capacity to produce 600,000 tons of sulfuric acid per year.
The oxygen plant has the capacity to produce 440 tons of oxygen per day.
Managing Director of the National Iranian Copper Industries Company Ardeshir Sa'd-Mohammadi told IRNA that with the launch of new projects, Iran’s copper smelting capacity increases to 400,000 tons per year.
Upstream Copper Output in Review
National Iranian Copper Industries Company and its subsidiaries, including Sungun Complex, Miduk Complex and Sarcheshmeh Copper Complex, produced an aggregate of 1.17 million tons of copper concentrate in the last Iranian year that ended on March 19, 2020, unchanged compared to the year before.
Production in the month ending March 19 stood at 85,174 tons, going down 5% year-on-year, the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization’s latest report shows.
An aggregate of 304,446 tons of copper anode were produced during the year under review, down 3% YOY.
Copper anode production during the 12th month stood at 30,196 tons, up 10% YOY.
The production of copper cathode amounted to 250,130 tons during the 12 months, up 1% YOY.
Copper cathode output during the 12th month reached 25,799 tons, going up by 8% YOY.
A total of 8,211 tons of molybdenum were produced during the 12-month period, which indicates a 20% increase YOY.
Molybdenum output during the month to March 19 totaled 535 tons, up by 5% YOY.
World's Ninth Largest Reserve
According to the United States Geological Survey, Iran holds the world's ninth largest copper reserves.
Iran holds about 4 billion tons of estimated copper reserves, according to the Geological Survey of Iran.
“With an annual production of 34.5 million tons, Iran is currently the world’s eighth biggest producer of copper in the world,” says Sa'd-Mohammadi, adding that with the rise in mineral explorations, the country will soon ascend to the seventh rank.
According to the official, Iran’s copper reserves make up 4.15% of the global copper reserves, Fars News Agency reported.
Iran's major Sungun Copper Mine’s reserves exceed 1.2 billion tons while that of Miduk Copper Mine surpass 500 million tons.
According to Sa'd-Mohammadi, the copper industry has a 50 million-ton share in Iran's annual mineral output.
Taking into account the development of copper mines of Der Alo Copper Mine, Darezar Copper Mine and Khatunabad (all three in Kerman Province) as well as new explorations, Sa'd-Mohammadi believes the country’s copper reserves will last for the next 100 years.
Exports of copper and downstream products in the fiscal 2019-20 stood at 365,070 tons worth about $917.53 million, down by 52% in tonnage and up by 13% in value YOY.
Copper and downstream products’ imports stood at 1,870 tons worth $17.42 million, indicating a 93.3% and 90.7% decrease in tonnage and value respectively YOY.
Copper and downstream products were the third major mineral commodity on the list of the country’s mineral trade.
On July 3, 1972, Kerman Sarcheshmeh Copper Mines Company was incorporated and in 1976 it was renamed National Iranian Copper Industries Company, which encompasses all operations of copper mines in the country.
The functions of this company include among others: To extract and operate copper mines; to produce high-grade products of ore and copper products such as cathode, slab, billet and 8-mm wires.
Sarcheshmeh and Miduk in Kerman and Sungun in East Azarbaijan are some of the most important copper mines of the country.
NICICO Sales, Exports Hit Record High
The National Iranian Copper Industries Company’s sales totaled a record high of 227 trillion rials ($1.4 billion) in the last fiscal year that ended on March 19, 2020, to witness a staggering rise of 127% compared to the year before.
According Sa'd-Mohammadi, the company’s domestic sales accounted for over 110 billion rials ($687,500) of the total sum. The rest ($722 million) pertained to exports.
He noted that both earnings from exports and domestic sales registered an all-time high, ISNA reported.
The value of exports was twice those of the preceding year, he added.
"NICICO produced more than 1.18 million tons of copper concentrates last year, which is also a record high."
The company also produced 250,133 tons of copper cathode during the period, which is also an all-time high.
Describing the volume of last year's sales as a milestone in the 48-year history of the company, Mohammad Aqajanlou, a senior official with Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, said the total turnover of the Iranian copper industry exceeded $4.5 billion last year and that NICICO posted a return on investment of 143%.
He added that copper cathode accounted for more than two-thirds of total domestic consumption for purified copper, which was over 160,000 tons last year.
"This means copper concentrate, a relatively raw from of the metal, accounted for the bulk of Iran’s exports. The issue has faced criticism, as many believe NICICO should create higher capacity for using copper concentrate inside Iran rather than shipping it in large quantities to countries like China.
Aqajanlou rejected the criticism and said the current supply and demand situation in the Iranian copper industry makes exports of concentrates more preferable.