Mining in Iran is underdeveloped. Yet the country is one of the most important mineral producers in the world, ranked among 15 major mineral-rich countries, holding some 68 types of minerals, 37 billion tonnes of proven reserves and more than 57 billion tonnes of potential reservoirs. Mineral production contributes only 0.6 per cent to the country’s GDP. Add other mining-related industries and this figure increases to just four per cent (2005). Many factors have contributed to this, namely lack of suitable infrastructure, legal barriers, exploration difficulties, and government control over all resources.
The most important mines in Iran include coal, metallic minerals, sand and gravel, chemical minerals and salt. Khorasan has the most operating mines in Iran. Other large deposits which mostly remain underdeveloped are zinc (world's largest), copper (world's ninth largest - revised from second largest in 2010), iron (world's ninth largest), uranium (world's tenth largest) and lead (world's eleventh largest). Iran with roughly 1% of the world's population holds more than 7% of the world's total mineral reserves.
In 2009 Iran will produce 25.5 million tons of iron ore (fines, lumps and concentrate), – Alternatively, U.S. Geological Survey ranked Iran, the 8th largest producer of iron ore in 2009 with 33 million tons of output. Chadormalu and Gol Gohar Iron Ore are the two largest iron ore mines (accounting for more than 80% of iron ore production in Iran).
- Chadormalu Mining and Industrial Company produced 9,498,000 mt of iron ore. It is the largest iron ore producer listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange,
- Gol Gohar Iron Ore Company produced 7,209,000 mt of iron ore; Gol Gohar pellet plant near the southern city of Sirjan, the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, uses iron ore concentrates from the Gol-e-Gohar mine in the province. The new plant produces five million tonnes of iron ore per year; enough for production of 2.5 million tonnes of steel.
- Iran Central Iron Ore Company produced 5,310,000 mt, with the remainder produced by other smaller public sector miners. In 2009, Iran exported about 10 million metric tons of iron ore, mainly to China.
In 2012, Iran opened a sponge iron plant in Hormozgan Province with a projected annual output of 1.8 million tons. Tariffs for the export of iron ore concentrate and pellet have been set at 50% and 35% respectively (2010). Starting in 2012, iron ore companies will pay tariffs for their excavation licenses 2% of the price of a tonne of steel billet for every tonne of iron ore that they sell.
Zinc and lead
Iran has over 220 million tonnes of proven zinc and lead ore reserves. With approximately 11 million tonnes of zinc metal constituent and 5 million tonnes of lead metal constituent, Iran has just below 5% of the world’s metal constituent reserves. Two important mines in Iran are:
-Mahdi-Abad, which has 75 million tonnes of ore with a zinc concentration of 6% and a lead concentration of 2.7%,
- Angouran mine, which has 16 million tonnes of ore with a zinc concentration of 26% and a lead concentration of 6%.
In 2009, with approximately 165,000 tonnes of production, Iran ranked first in the Middle East and 15th in the world in terms of zinc and lead production. In 2009, Iran exported 77,000 tonnes of zinc and lead concentrate and ingot.
The largest or most profitable producers of zinc and lead in Iran are:
- Iran Zinc Mines Development Group (largest producer),
- Bama Mining & Industrial Co.,
- Bafgh Mines Co.
- Kalsimin Co. (the largest zinc producer in the Middle East)
In 2009 Iran will produce 383,000 tons of copper. As of 2011, Iran had the world’s 9th largest reserves of copper at 32.5 million tons. The mines at Sar Cheshmeh in Kerman Province contain the world's second largest lode of copper ore (5% of the world's total). As of 2010, Iran ranked 10th in copper production and 17th in copper cathodes production (220,000 tons). In 2009, Iran exported $1.2 billion worth of copper cathodes. National Iranian Copper Industries Company (NICICO) is one of the largest companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and was the largest non-oil exporter in Iran in 2010 with exports worth $1.3 billion.