We have both oil resources and rich mineral reserves. In addition,
we have three billion tons of known coal reserves, and yet coal is
not one of our priorities and not much exploration has been done.
Mine is a God-given chance and capacity that not all countries have because
the number of mine rich countries in the world is limited. Interestingly,
some of these countries have good reserves and are single-product or
multi-product but do not have energy reserves like us. For example, in
underdeveloped countries such as Guinea, there is oxide and oxide mines with
aluminum raw materials, and it is one of the richest countries in the world,
but it is close to zero in terms of energy, gas, oil and coal. The most
Guinea can do is to extract and export raw materials. In a developed country
such as Australia, which is one of the richest in terms of iron ore reserves
or some other items, because there is no energy it is one of the main
exporters of crude iron with exports mainly to China. Statistics show that
in 2019, Australia exported nearly $100 billion worth of iron ore to China,
which is a very astronomical figure.
Now, if we want to compare these countries with Iran, we will see that Iran
has three characteristics, first, that there are 68 minerals in the country,
including copper, iron ore, zinc and chromite, etc., some of which we have
just extracted, exploited and processed, and in diversification of products
we are one of the few mineral countries in the world; secondly, we have not
yet done a full exploration in terms of extraction and only in IMIDRO
(Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation
Organization) with the help of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
we were able to complete 200,000 square kilometers of new aerial geophysics;
this shows that the country has 1.6 million square kilometers of mineral
land, the information of which is just being completed.
Third, more importantly, we have energy other than these raw materials or
minerals; in other words, we have both oil resources and rich mineral
reserves. In addition, we have three billion tons of known coal reserves,
and yet coal is not one of our priorities and not much exploration has been
done. Raw materials, when combined with energy, create high added value and
generate employment and development.
During the short period after the announcement of the breakthrough Iran
Nuclear Agreement (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),
reputable international companies such as Canadian and Australian companies
came to Iran and helped us to explore, but the duration was very short and
we could not import technology in this short period. Of course, note that we
were under sanctions at the time and they did not fully fulfill their
In 1397 (2018) and 1398 (2019), about 9 to 10 billion dollars of mineral
products were exported, including copper, steel, zinc and even minerals,
which is a large number; in other words, of 45 billion dollars of non-oil
exports, 20 to 23 percent is related to mineral products. Some of these
items have multiplied value added. For example, the international price of
iron ore is about $60 to $65. In this case, $60-$65 is imported in the first
cycle of sponge iron and in the concentrate, pellet, sponge iron, steel
ingot and sheet factory, respectively, and has a high added value.
When the price of steel is $450, $500 and $600, when it reaches the stage of
sheet production, it goes from $400, $450 to $800, $900. But we have to ask
why this amount of added value is created. It must be said that we have
cheap gas and coal, and because we also have minerals, we can fetch very
high benefits for the country by developing this sector.
Fortunately, in recent years, we have made good progress in terms of
technology and factory construction. At present, the capacity in the
concentrate sector has doubled. In other mineral fields, we have witnessed
good growth. It should be noted that these positive achievements have been
made with all the backwardness in aerial geophysics and the recognition of
reserves and backwardness in terms of technology and investment.
In the field of mining
and mining industries, we can name 120 types of materials, from
radioactive materials to ordinary materials such as lime.
Do you have an estimate of the dollar value of the discovered stocks that
have been explored? What is the value of their crude sales?
In 1390 (2011) and 1391 (2012), the figure announced was $700 billion but to
be honest this is definitely not an exact figure because an organization has
to come and do the assessment and this is part of the responsibilities of
the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade or the Geological & Mineral
Explorations of Iran (GSI) Survey. It seems that no time and budget has been
set for this task. What I can say is based on the vast discoveries we have
made. When I was in charge of IMIDRO, we started 270,000 km of exploration
and reached 450 promising areas. Fortunately, IMIDRO’s current management
continues this process and has been able to reach an agreement with the
Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade has defined 300,000 new kilometers,
although the private sector has also entered this field. In particular, some
large companies such as Mobarakeh (Esfahan’s Mobarakeh Steel Company),
Chadormalu (Chadormalu Mining & Industrial Company), Golgohar (Golgohar
Mining & Industrial Co.) or Mahan (Mahan Mines and Industries Development
Company), and MIDHCO (Middle East Mines Industries Development Holding
Company) have entered the field of exploration.
IMIDRO predicted in 1392 (2013) in Sangan that the amount of iron ore
reserves in this sector would be about 800 million tons, while with the
exploration work that was done, this figure increased by 50%. As for
Zarshouran Gold Mines and Mineral Industries Development Company, in 1392 it
was said that 80 tons of gold would be stored there, and later with new
excavations and discoveries that were made in 1396 (2017) or 1397 (2018),
the figure reached 120 to 140 tons. That is, new discoveries are changing
reserves. The same is true in the copper and other fields. So I think this
figure is not precise. My prediction is that it is at least double, but I
still do not know exactly.
Why has the government not paid attention to this sector in the last 40
years? Has it not really been a priority for the government or has it
deliberately not wanted to involve the private sector? Currently, there are
three or four thousand part-time and closed mines in the country that do
practically nothing; there is so much obvious capacity, and investing in
this area is certainly profitable, but neither the government enters this
sector nor allows the private sector to enter this field. What is the reason
for such attitudes?
The mining sector has been a bit hot over the years, with some large public
and even private companies entering the sector. For example, in the case of
Sangan, a number of large public enterprises, such as Parsian Bank, invested
billions of rials and launched projects there, or the Foundation for the
Underprivileged is investing there, or the National Development Company
affiliated to Bank Melli Iran has entered this sector.
As you see, the position of mining and the mining industry is well known,
even among the private sector. The issue of mining has several points. One
is that we have to admit that in a grand strategy over the years, the mining
sector has not been given as much priority as in oil and agriculture, except
for a period in 1370-1376 (1991-1997), when the then Ministry of Mines and
Metals was in a construction period and we saw serious attention to the
formation of a separate ministry. After the launch of IMIDRO, good
foundations were laid in the mining sector between 1381 (2002) and 1383
(2004), and as a result, the private sector became more active. For example,
in the field of cement and iron ore, good measures have been taken during
these years, even in the field of steel, little action has been taken, but
the point is that the general attention of the government, which in my
opinion goes back to the Plan & Budget Organization (PBO) is weak in this
What will happen to these several thousand mines that have been handed over
and most of them are closed? Either the government should take them back and
give them to others, or at least solve their problems.
This is part of the duties of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade. One
of our problems in the country is that some organizations give licenses but
there is no more supervision. Not that they do not want to do it, but there
are two reasons, the first reason is that the organization does not have
staff or in any case does not have the necessary facilities for monitoring.
In addition, monitoring may not be one of their priorities.
Monitoring the transfer of mines was on the ministry’s agenda during Mr.
Hassan Rouhani’s first administration, and was part of the ministry’s
duties. Even at the national level, mines that have licenses but no action
has been taken will be given time and their licenses revoked. A lot of work
started in 1394 (2015) and 1395 (2016), I do not have the latest information
on their situation, but you are right it seems that solutions should be
adopted and some of their problems should be solved.
But we started a project in IMIDRO, which fortunately continues, based on
which supporting the medium and small mines was put on the agenda, and we
envisaged a unit called ‘support for small mines’, which started its
activities in 1396 (2017) and 1397 (2018). At present, a good unit has been
established in Iran Minerals Production And Supply company (IMPASCO) that
supports medium and small mines, and recently, as statistics showed, a
number of these mines have returned to the production cycle.
I personally believe that the current Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade
should be revived not for the long term but for a limited time; for example,
the Parliament should approve the revival of the ministry for 10 years to
pay special attention to the field of mines and metals.
Currently, there are ministries in the government that if dissolved or
merged nothing would happen; for example, the Ministry of Telecommunications
is an important place, but it cannot do anything right now; its large
companies are owned by institutions or the private sector. The Ministry of
Telecommunications can be merged with another ministry.
Was the formation of small and medium-sized mines the right policy? In the
field of agriculture, it is believed that we should change from
micro-agriculture to industrial agriculture. According to this issue,
instead of defining 3,000 mines, why 300 mines are not defined?
The mines have multiple owners, or they are the property of individuals, and
later the mine is identified there, or it is the property of national lands,
and the individuals are licensed to operate there. There are differences
between them. Between 1395 (2016) and 1397 (2018) a sound policy was adopted
in which ownership was for the individual, the company, or even the
government, but its exploitation, extraction, and value added were shared
with the owner. Projects such as Golgohar 1, Golgohar 4, Golgohar 5,
Golgohar 6, Khomrud Mine, Joghatai Chromite Plant, Nakhlak Lead and
Mehdiabad Lead and Zinc, etc., each of which required billions of dollars or
hundreds of millions of dollars of investment while maintaining government
ownership of the mine. We have been using it for 20 years through auctions
and in accordance with the law, so that people would be willing to invest.
In addition, fortunately, large companies such as MIDHCO, National Iranian
Copper Industry Company (NICIC), Chadormalu, and especially Golgohar, have
started this work and have now developed it, on the basis that they are
concluding long-term contracts with small and medium-sized mines.
Perhaps one of the best models is this because we should not enter into
ownership, but large companies can enter into long-term contracts and also
give them long-term loans for investment.
Why are mining and mining industries less vulnerable than oil when it comes
In the field of mining and mining industries, we can name 120 types of
materials, from radioactive materials to ordinary materials such as lime.
There is a great variety of materials here, and secondly, the variety of
consumers of these materials and their producers is much greater than oil
products. If you list the number of oil rich countries in the world, their
number will be 10 to 15. But concerning oil if you drop 5-6 main players
others would have no role to play. The United States, Iraq, Russia, Iran,
Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, Algeria, Kuwait and the UAE, are the 10
Third, oil has been politicized from the beginning, that is, it is more
political than economic, and it has gone into the political realm at all,
while in the mining sector some of its items may be political, such as
uranium, but many of its items are not political. Therefore, the United
States has banned the export of our copper and steel since 1397 (2018), then
put Mobarakeh on the sanctions list, but the export is still done because
the consumer needs it.