EghtesadOnline: Iran’s export of mineral products during the first seven months of the current fiscal year (March 20-Oct. 21) reached 21.17 million tons worth $3.04 billion, latest data released by the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization show.
This marked a 42% and 43% decline in total volume and value year-on-year, respectively.
According to a new report released by IMIDRO, steel topped the list of exports in terms of value with $1.59 billion and was followed by copper with $457.5 million and cement with $163.4 million.
In terms of tonnage, cement had the largest share with 7.63 million tons, followed by steel with 4.3 million tons.
According to the IMIDRO data, alumina powder exports saw the biggest jump in terms of value (180% YOY) to reach $1 million, followed by mica with $12,000 (up 72% YOY), ferrosilicon manganese with $130,000 (up 59% YOY), aluminum products with $101.11 million (up 56% YOY) and ferro-molybdenum with $7.39 million (up 18% YOY).
The sharpest fall in export value was recorded for iron ore concentrate (down 92% YOY to reach $22.31 million), iron ore in the form of fines/lumps (down 79% YOY to reach $45.08 million) and titanium products (down 68% YOY to reach $44,000).
In terms of tonnage, rare-earth minerals posted the biggest growth (131% YOY) to reach 104 tons, followed by aluminum products (up 84% YOY to reach 61,147 tons), alumina powder (up 62% YOY to reach 541 tons), ferrosilicon manganese (up 57% YOY to reach 125 tons) and zinc products (up 34% YOY to reach 110,992 tons).
Iron ore concentrate had the sharpest decline in tonnage with 303,273 tons (down 91% YOY), followed by titanium products with 14.69 tons (down 82% YOY).
The IMIDRO report further shows the import of mineral products stood at 2.28 million tons worth $1.754 billion during the same period. The number shows a 16% increase in total volume and a 3% decrease compared with the same period of last year.
Steel also topped the list of mineral imports in terms of value with $714.66 million. It was followed by coal and coke with $171.99 million worth of imports. Aluminum products with $154.34 million came next, followed by titanium products with $110.61 million and $73.42 million respectively.
In terms of tonnage, coal and coke topped the list with 748,167 tons, followed by steel with 633,665 tons, alumina powder with 162,557 tons and aluminum products with 102,091 tons.
The value of molybdenum imports saw the biggest jump (35% YOY) to reach $310,000. It was followed by steel products, up 32% to 714.66 million, and precious metals with $0.65 million (up 27% YOY).
The sharpest fall in import value was recorded for lead (down 96% YOY to reach $490,000), which was followed by zinc products (down 71% YOY to reach $3.74 million).
In terms of tonnage, the import of molybdenum saw the highest jump of 265% YOY (less than 11 tons), followed by aluminum products (up 102% YOY to 102,000 tons) and steel products (up 71% YOY t
Lead products had the sharpest decrease in terms of tonnage (down 97% YOY to 120 tons).
55b Tons of Reserves
Iran’s mineral reserves currently stand at 55 billion tons, about 37 billion tons of which are proven. New explorations are expected to increase the figure by 30% to 60 billion tons by the end of the current fiscal year (March 2021).
A total of 15.69 million tons of mineral products worth $2.17 billion were exported from Iran in the first five months of the current fiscal year (March 20-Aug. 21).
Steel topped the list of exports in terms of value with $1.11 billion. It was followed by copper with $334.12 million and cement with $120.98 million. In terms of tonnage, cement had the lion’s share with 5.7 million tons, followed by steel with 3 million tons.
Some 410 million tons of minerals were extracted from Iranian mines in the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2020).
Iran is home to 68 types of minerals with more than 37 billion tons of proven reserves and 57 billion tons of potential reserves.
According to the United States Geological Survey, Iran holds the world's largest zinc, ninth largest copper, 10th largest iron ore, fifth largest gypsum and barite, and 10th largest uranium reserves.
Overall, Iran is home to more than 7% of global mineral reserves.
IMIDRO's Mining Exploration Investments at $24m
Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, the country’s largest state-owned mining holding company, has invested 6 trillion rials ($24 million) in mining exploration across the country during President Hassan Rouhani's first term in office (August 2013-17).
"More than 900 highly potential mining zones have been identified so far … IMIDRO and its subsidiaries have carried out exploration operations over 700,000 square kilometers of the country’s area since 2012, 400,000 of which have been done over the past two years," Khodadad Gharibpour, the head of IMIDRO, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
A consortium of private companies accounted for 50,000 square meters of explorations, he added.
Gharibpour said IMIDRO is set to carry out operations on 280 new mining zones, noting that the remaining zones will be outsourced to the private sector.
Exploration and mining in general cannot begin until mining firms are certified by the Industries Ministry.
“The permits issued so far cover the excavation of lead, zinc, gold, copper, iron ore, coal and salt, on which work has begun gradually,” he said.
Iran is said to have the largest area under mineral exploration in the Middle East.
Impediments to Growth
A wide range of factors shave been hindering the growth of Iran’s mining sector.
The dominance of the government and the small contribution of private sector, lack of persistent policies as well as sanctions are among the most influential ones, in the view of Pedram Soltani, a member of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
"The sector has been struggling with inconstant policies, without taking the benefits of the private sector into account … This is while our experience in 1990s indicated that by relying on sectors highly dominated by the government, the economy would not make any progress," Soltani was quoted as saying by TCCIM.ir.
But the private sector had no considerable contribution to the mining sector in the past two decades, he added.
State-owned Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, taking its subsidiaries into account, has a 30% share in the country’s mineral extraction.
IMIDRO will have invested $3 billion in Iran's mining sector by the end of the current Iranian year (March 2021).
Policymakers have also failed to consider the development of mining industries, which could help multiply the added value of mining products.
Soltani believes that imposition of sanctions against Iran has significantly affected the mining sector, though "the impact was less severe compared to other business sectors".
"The growth of mining sector would definitely be positive, if it was not hit by the sanctions," he said.
“The sector could have attracted a considerable amount of foreign investments, which is vital for its development.”