1202 GMT December 15, 2018
According to some sources, the history of lead and zinc industry in Iran dates back to more than seven centuries ago.
Iran exported lead worth $745 million in the five years to March 2018. In the year to March 2018, lead exports generated the highest annual revenue ($214 million) in the five-year time-span. The value of exports was the lowest ($104 million) in the year to March 2014.
Lead exports in the 12-month period to March 2017 recorded the highest year-on-year growth within the five-year period, with an increase of 35 percent compared to the year earlier, to amount to $174 million from $129 million.
The lowest year-on-year growth in the 60-month time-span, however, pertained to the year to March 2016, when exports of the mineral brought in $124 million to set a five-year low record of one-percent.
In the year to March 2018, India was Iran's biggest lead importer with purchases amounting to $59 million (27.6 percent). In the 12-month period to March 2017, India had bought lead valued at $41.8 million from Iran.
During the 12-month time-span to March 2018, South Korea ($50 million) and the UAE (46.7 million) were the second and third biggest lead importers from Iran. Turkey and Indonesia are other lead export destinations in the same period.
In 2017, Iran exported zinc ingots valued at $302 million to rank 15th among the world's top exporters. In this year, Iran accounted for 1.6 percent of the total global zinc exports. In 2016, zinc exports fetched $227 million in revenue for Iran.
This comes as in 2017, South Korea, the Netherlands and Canada exported $1.6 billion (8.8 percent of the total global exports), 1.41 billion (7.5 percent) and $1.4 billion (7.4 percent) worth of zinc ingots to be the world’s top three exporters of the product.
According to Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration figures, the value of Iran's zinc ingot exports amounted to $1.73 billion during the five-year period to March 2018.
The main importers of Iran's zinc ingots are Turkey ($216 million), India ($41 million), Taiwan ($17 million), the UAE and South Korea.
Zinc ingot imports
In 2017, China was the biggest importer of zinc ingot in the world with imports amounting to $2.49 billion. The US and Germany followed China by purchasing $2.23 billion and $1.85 billion worth of zinc ingots, respectively.
In the same year, the value of Iran's zinc ingot imports reached $5.7 million to account for 0.04 percent of the world's total imports. The figure stood at $8 million in 2016, helping Iran account for 0.06 percent of the total global zinc ingot purchases.
Unofficial figures show that following China, Kazakhstan and India, Iran is the world's fourth biggest Lead and zinc producer, IRNA reported.
During May 22-June 21, lead and zinc production in the northwestern Iranian province of Zanjan witnessed a 33-percent growth, year-on-year, to reach 122,381 tons. In this period, zinc and lead output in the central Iranian province of Isfahan registered a rise of 95 percent to stand at 5,306 tons compared to the same period last year.
Zinc and lead production in these two provinces, during March 21-June 21, showed an increase of 85-percent (Zanjan) and a rise of 112-percent (Isfahan) year-on-year, to reach 371,760 tons and 15,298 tons respectively.
In this period, the two provinces jointly produced 387,057 tons. This was 86 percent higher than the figure for the same time-span last year.
International figures show that per capita zinc consumption in Iran stands at 1.14 kilograms, whereas, the figure is 5.9 kilograms and 2.5 kilograms in western Europe and China, respectively.
Obstacles to production
The main obstacle to Iranian lead production industry currently pertains to processing and producing lead ingots.
Having low productivity, the technologies presently used in Iran are not efficient enough to enable the country to import sufficient mineral soil. Therefore, Iran is required to make a sharp improvement in the technologies it employs to be able to boost productivity.
The other problem faced by the domestic lead industry is a lack of banking facilities.
A precious treasure
Located 115 kilometers southeast of the central Iranian city of Yazd, Mahdi Abad zinc and lead mine is among the world's biggest lead and zinc resources and a precious treasure for the country.
In the year to March 2017, IMIDRO — under the supervision of the Iranian Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade — handed over the mine's operations to a domestic private consortium.
The mine has a proven 154-million-ton lead and zinc reserve.