The effort is in line with Iran’s bid to move toward high-end processed products and stop sales of raw materials, said Karbasian, who is also head of the Iranian Mines & Mining Industries Development & Renovation Organization (IMIDRO).
The country is courting international prospectors into a sector which boasts some of the world’s most stupendous riches but remains vastly underdeveloped in the shadow of its sprawling oil industry.
Karbasian said 100,000 square kilometers of mineral-bearing structures have been explored in the country over the past 100 years.
“But 240,000 square kilometers of exploration work in 12 provinces of the country has been put on the agenda which is a big national project and can doubly help with development and processing of minerals,” he said.
Karbasian has already said Iran planned $29 billion of investment in the mining sector. According to Deputy Economy Minister Mohammad Khazaee, $15 billion of this sum is expected to be provided by foreign investors.
The projects include production of aluminum, steel, rare earth elements, copper, gold and coal.
On Friday, Karbasian said semi-finished iron ore projects such as concentration, pelletizing and sponge iron production are a priority, with exports expected to stop from 2019 as the country seeks to triple steel production by 2025.
Iran ranked the world’s ninth exporter of iron ore in 2014 after selling 22 million metric tons. Shipments are expected to drop to 16 million metric tons this year amid a rise in domestic consumption.
The country plans to raise steel output to 55 million metric tons by 2025 from over 16 million tons last year. To reach that target, Iran has to produce some 160 million metric tons of iron ore. Last year’s production totaled only 45 million.
Steel is a strategic commodity for the country of about 80 million. It is crucial to Iran’s massive oil and gas industry and its automotive sector which is the Middle East’s largest.
Iran has also a massive transportation and water supply network and a mammoth construction sector as well as sprawling urban centers which devour steel in stupendous quantities.
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