by Tahir Mustafa (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1441)
In its attempt to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil, the Islamic Republic of Iran has forged ahead with developing its mining industry. Rich in minerals—Iran has some 68 types of minerals—it brought titanium-bearing ore production on stream last month in another location in addition to two already in operation.
“The Qara-Aghaj deposit near Urmia, estimated to hold 120 million tonnes of titanium-bearing ores, was brought into operation, pending the establishment of processing plants, provincial deputy head of the industry, mine and trade organization Parisa Abedpour told IRNA on June 16.” This was reported by Press TV on June 17.
Iran has several titanium ore deposit sites. The Qara-Aghaj site in West Azerbaijan province (northwest of Iran) is one of the largest. It contains 30 percent of Iran’s overall reserves and is a close second to the titanium prospect in Kahnuj, in Kerman province. Kahnuj is estimated to hold 150 million tonnes. Yet another large deposit is the Fanuj mine in Sistan-Baluchistan province in the country’s south bordering Pakistan.
The Qara-Aghaj mine is located 36 km northwest of Urmia, the provincial capital of West Azerbaijan. Once processing plants for the strategic mineral become operational, they will bring immense benefit to local communities providing vast employment opportunities. The province also has other heavy mineral deposits including gold. Iran’s largest gold reserves are in West Azerbaijan.
For instance, the Zarshuran gold complex in Takab, estimated to hold 110 tonnes of reserves, is one of the most important mineral prospects in the country. Another, the Aq Darreh, also in Takab, produces 2.2 tonnes of gold a year.
It is estimated that Iran could earn as much as $700 billion and perhaps $1.4 trillion from its mineral deposits. While not all minerals have been fully mapped or developed, the country is well on its way to getting there, thanks to its ‘Resistance Economy’ as enjoined by the Rahbar Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei. This relies on indigenous resources and talent to develop the country’s economy.
Iran is world renowned in producing the finest quality of Persian rugs. Iran’s pistachio is also known and much sought after worldwide. And who has not heard of Iranian caviar that comes from the Caspian Sea? But surging ahead with developing its mineral resources is a new ball game.
The Islamic Republic has a large pool of highly qualified scientists and engineers. They are also highly motivated and committed to see Iran develop despite the unjust sanctions imposed by Donald Trump’s rogue regime in Washington.
Titanium is a highly prized mineral that is used in a vast array of fields. Its light weight and great strength as well as resistance to corrosion makes it extremely attractive in aircraft manufacturing. Aircrafts have to fly long distances carrying a large number of passengers, their luggage as well as huge quantities of fuel. Weight is an important consideration in aircraft operations because it determines fuel consumption, hence the cost. The use of a metal like titanium or its alloys in aircraft manufacturing keeps the weight down while adding to its strength.
Equally important is the use of titanium in manufacturing weapons. Similarly, it has great demand for use in the aerospace industry where satellites are subjected to great stress both during launch into space as well as at the time of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. It also has uses in marine industries and industrial processes.
Titanium’s use for making alloys with other metals such as iron, aluminium, vanadium and molybdenum are also in great demand. Such alloys are strong but lightweight, thanks to titanium’s lightweight. They lend themselves for use in the aerospace industry as well as military, chemical plants, oil and gas plants, electric power and desalination plants, building structures, automobile products and biomedical devices.
Earlier this year, Iran also launched a pilot project for the extraction of rare earth metals. It obtained the technology for deep-level mining where rare earth elements are found. Used in a range of consumer products such as catalysts in cars and oil refineries, superconductors, televisions and fiber optics, Iran imports 180 tonnes of rare earth elements annually for domestic needs. These strategic metals appear deep in the ground necessitating the use of specialized equipment.
The illegal sanctions imposed by the US has resulted in Iran’s oil exports dropping to $8.9 billion in the last fiscal year. A decade ago, Iran earned $119 billion from oil sales. Its non-oil exports, however, surged to $41.3 billion in 2019-20. With titanium and other minerals coming on stream, Iran’s economy is poised to take off making it an economic powerhouse in the region.
Despite the severe constraints on its earnings because of US sanctions, Iran is the leading regional military power. With its economy taking off, its reach will extend even further sending shudders down the spines of oppressive powers.