EghtesadOnline: Iran has the capacity to extract 32.5 million tons of copper ores per year, making it the world's eighth biggest country in this respect, says Ardeshir Sa'd-Mohammadi, managing director of the National Iranian Copper Industries Company.
He noted that there will be more than 100,000 meters of deep explorations in copper ore mines in the current Iranian year (March 2020-21), IRIB News reported.
According to the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, National Iranian Copper Industries Company (NICICO) 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, 2019, which output remained unchanged compared to the year before.
A total of 304,446 tons of copper anode were produced during the year to register a 3% year-on-year decrease.
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.
Smelting Capacity Hit 400,000 Tons p.a.
Four development projects related to copper industry were inaugurated in Kerman Province by President Hassan Rouhani on May 7.
A total of 2.21 trillion rials ($12.5 million) have been invested in these projects, which are said to have created more than 200 new jobs.
Located in the southern province's Shahr-e Babak County, the new projects are to do with the development of Khatunabad Copper Refinery Plant: expansion of copper anode smelting plant, a new copper concentrate storage facility, a sulfuric acid plant and an oxygen plant.
The expansion of 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 around 600,000 tons of sulfuric acid per year.
The oxygen plant has the capacity to produce 440 tons of oxygen per day.
Sa'd-Mohammadi told IRNA that with the new projects on stream, Iran’s copper smelting capacity increases to 400,000 tons per year.
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 development of mineral explorations, the country will soon reach 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 those of Miduk Copper Mine surpass 500 million tons.
Sa'd-Mohammadi said 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, the NICICO chief believes the country’s copper reserves will last for the next 100 years at least.
Exports of copper and downstream products in the fiscal March 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 03, 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 among the most important copper mines of the country.
NICICO Sales, Exports Hit Record Highs
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, 2019, 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 and the rest ($722 million) pertained to exports.
He noted that both earnings from exports and domestic sales registered all-time highs, ISNA reported.
“The value of exports was twice those of the preceding year,” he said.
"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 NICICO posted a return on investment of 143%.
The official noted 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 form of the metal, accounted for the bulk of Iran’s exports, which issue has faced criticism since many believe NICICO should create a bigger 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 the export of concentrates more preferable.