This is while the country’s per capita zinc consumption stands at about 1.14 kg, compared to about 5.9 kg for West European countries, 3.4 kg for North America and 2.5 kg for China.
According to experts, this is a testament to Iran’s potential to increase demand, especially in galvanization sectors and infrastructure development, as the country’s industries rev up production following the lifting of western sanctions, SENA news agency reported.
There is also potential for a rise in Iran’s per capita lead consumption of 0.93 kg, compared to Europe’s 4 kg and China’s 1.7 kg. Lead is most widely used in batteries, manufacture of acids used in cars, electric engines and uninterruptible power supplies installed in computer and telecom networks.
So far, over 600 zinc and lead deposits have been discovered across the country while only a few have been thoroughly explored.
Some fast facts:
- The country is capable of producing 450,000 tons of zinc ingots per year.
- Over 80 companies are currently active in Iran’s lead and zinc industry with the Calcimin Company being the largest one.
- The domestic industry has directly created close to 20,000 employment opportunities.
- About 80% of the domestic output are exported every year.
- The producers are currently operating at 32% of their actual production capacity.
Some of the country’s most abundant and pure lead and zinc reserves are found in Angouran Mine located in Zanjan Province, with a zinc concentration of 26% and lead concentration of 6% and overall proven reserves of 23 million tons.
Angouran is one of the oldest mines in the country, the extraction of which dates back to the 1960s. It has the capacity to produce 2.4 million tons of lead and zinc ingots per year.
However, over 50 years of exploitation have nearly depleted the mine’s reserves.
According to Angouran Lead and Zinc Complex’s manager, Mansour Sheibani, only about 9 million tons of minerals are left in the mine, 2 million tons of which are in underground reserves while the remaining is on the surface.
Sheibani said that with the current extraction rate of 750,000 tons of minerals per year, the mine will be exhausted by 2027. However, he noted that undertaking more exploration operations in the Angouran region could lead to the discovery of more reserves.
Based on plans by the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, after the zinc deposits in Angouran mine run out, Mehdiabad Zinc and Lead Mine, located in the central province of Yazd, is supposed to be the main supplier of lead and zinc to domestic industries.
Mehdiabad Mine is a world-class oxide, sulfide and mixed oxide/sulfide zinc, lead and silver deposit. It has up to 400 million tons of reserves, 70% of which are zinc and the rest lead, silver and barite.
Operations at the mine started several years ago after a joint venture was formed between the Australian company Union Capital Limited and mining and engineering company Iran ITOK. But after the two investors demanded that the government give up the ownership of the mine, the operation in Mehdiabad came to a halt.
Operations resumed at the mine following a $1 billion investment by the Iranian company Karoun Dez Dasht.
Impediments to Growth
- A recent drop in output due to the collapse of Angouran Mine’s walls;
- The lingering effects of western sanctions;
- The companies’ low operating capacity while employing excess workforce compared to global standards;
- Inadequate government support.
Exports: Zinc on Decline, Lead on Rise
In 2012, Iran’s zinc exports reached a record high of 134 million tons valued at $250 million. Exports steadily declined up to 2015, reaching 33 million tons valued at $71 million by the end of 2015.
Lead exports experienced their lowest level in 2012, with only 4,500 tons valued at $2.8 million exported. The figures slowly bounced back and reached 33 million tons worth $60 million by the end of 2015.
Lead Price Fluctuations
Global lead prices were on a downward trend ever since January and have just snapped their losing momentum in June. The industrial metal was priced at $1,706 per ton on Thursday, posting a robust growth compared to its January low of $1,600 per ton, according to the London Metal Exchange, the world’s hub for the trading of industrial materials.
According to Reza Mehdizadeh, a lead market expert, the rise in lead prices is mostly due to China and India’s unexpected economic resurgence, the endurance of which is unlikely, IMEReport.ir reported.
He also pointed to the rising domestic lead production in recent years and noted that production has significantly exceeded local demand for the metal, creating a glut and negatively affecting the prices.
Mehdizadeh argued that lead ingots, just like zinc bars, must be offered on Iran Mercantile Exchange so that the prices can be balanced by supply and demand.