The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

July 2013, No. 67

Mines & Metals

National Iranian Copper Industries Company

History of copper in the world and Iran

Today, it has been about 10,000 years since man has used copper for the first time in the history. As copper is one of the few metals found freely in nature or in other words in its native state, also having a bright red color, and being easily malleable, it has captured the attention of man in Neolithic era for being used as a proper substitute for stone. Although the exact date and place where copper has been used for the first time is not clearly known, however majority of the experts believe that the first usage of copper dates back to 8000 B.C. in western Asia, in a region where the first civilizations have taken shape in Mesopotamia.

The copper articles and related alloys discovered in different parts of Iran, and also the remains of ancient and primeval copper smelting furnaces all demonstrate familiarity of Iranian people of ancient times with excavation and smelting of copper.

The oldest copper objects found in Iran date back to about 5th millennium B.C. Zaghe and Sialk Hills, and Eblis mound are among the most ancient regions where Iranian people have employed copper for the first time.

Based on the archeological findings, mining operations in Iran had been affluent since 5th millennium B.C. the artifacts made  of bronze, gold, and silver originated from the next millenniums, all are indicative of progress of Iran in the field of metals mining and smelting operations. After advent of Islam, particularly in Seljuk dynasty era (13th century) and Safavids (18th century), mining and smelting of metals had been immensely flourishing.

During the years 1897-1906, A.F.Stahl, a German expert engaged in construction of telegraph line from Sirjan to Rafsanjan, used to pass by Sarcheshmeh in his usual path for going to work. He points out in his logbook to likely existence of copper deposit in Sarcheshmeh. Subsequently, during the period 1940-1942, George Ladam also declares the existence of copper deposit in Sarcheshmeh. Eventually, this copper mine gets registered under the name of Murasban, in 1949.

In 1967, Rezaei brothers, established KCI (Kerman Copper Industries Co.) in partnership with British Selection Trust.

In December 1971, Sarcheshmeh copper mine was nationalized by the then council of economy and the stocks owned by Rezaei brothers and Selection Trust was purchased by the government.

In February 1972, the statute of Sarcheshmeh Copper Mines Corporation was enacted. Afterwards, the agreement in principle and the contract between SCMC and Anaconda were concluded on 1972, October, was the first step taken by the United States of America in getting involved in our copper industry. So, Parsons Jurden commenced its operations on 4th July 1973, as the main contractor for construction of Sarcheshmeh Copper Complex.

On July 1976, the statute for establishment of National Iranian Copper Industries Company (NICICO) was ratifies, and hence the name of SCMC was replaced by NICICO. Under this stature, all activities pertinent to copper mines in Iran, including exploration, operation, concentration, smelting, refining, peripheral industries, production of copper by-products, as well as distribution, local sales, and export of copper were all asserted as major legal functions of NICICO.

Position of Iran's copper in the world

Mineral deposits

Based on the latest information and statistics, the copper content in the entire copper reserves throughout the world is estimated to be around 510 million tons. So, Iran having a copper content of approximately 21 million tons is in possession of about 4% of the world's copper deposit, hence standing in the seventh position among the top countries with the richest copper reserves in the world, in Asia, it ranks second, after Indonesia.


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  July 2013
No. 67