Mining and Quarrying
Iran's mineral wealth, in addition to oil and gas, includes chromite,
lead, zinc, copper, coal, gold, tin, iron, manganese, ferrous
oxide, and tungsten. Commercial extraction of significant reserves
of turquoise, fireclay, and kaolin is also possible. Most mining
was small scale until modernization efforts in the 1960s led to
the systematic recording of known deposits, as well as the systematic
search for new ones. Industrialization increased the need for
steel, which in turn boosted demand for coal, iron ore, and limestone.
Construction of new roads and railroads since the 1960s improved
transportation among mining centers throughout the country, especially
around the Kerman/Bafq area of south- central Iran.
Prior to the Revolution in 1979, the government intended to develop
the copper industry to the point that it would rival oil as a
source of foreign exchange. Iranian copper deposits are among
the world's largest, and mining is particularly advanced southwest
of Kerman near Sirjan. The Iran-Iraq War risks and declining world
copper prices inhibited copper extraction, which prior to FY 1982
had remained insignificant. The government, however, promoted
private sector investment in copper in FY 1982, which may have
been responsible for the improved copper output in 1983.
In the 1980s, Iran's major nonmetallic mineral exports were chromite
and construction stone. Iran's total chromite reserves were estimated
at 20 to 30 million tons in 1987. Exports of construction stone
to the Persian Gulf countries increased 200 percent in 1986 over
the previous year.
The government conducted surveys in the 1970s to ascertain the
commercial potential of known mineral deposits. By 1977 about
half the country had been surveyed from the air, but less than
one-fifth had been explored on the ground. Studies of mineral
deposits throughout the country were completed in the mid-1980s,
detailing the most recent discoveries of reserves of silica, limestone,
granite, and iron ore. In addition, several uranium deposits were
discovered in Baluchestan va Sistan in August 1986, and in September
1986 another 750,000 tons of white kaolin deposits on the Iran-Afghanistan
border near Birjand were reported.
The extent of mineral resources was indicated by the fact that
approximately 2.7 million tons of minerals were extracted from
27 active mines in Yazd Province in FY 1986. Iran earned a total
of US$85 million from mineral exports in that year.
Data as of December 1987