Iran’s first titanium production plant will be up and running in the next six months, the manager of the Kahnuj titanium pilot project says.
The plant with a capacity to produce 2 tonnes of titanium pigments per day is at the phase of equipment installation in Kahnuj in southeastern Kerman province, Morad Ali Manzari-Tavakolli was quoted as saying.
The project includes setting up two units with a capacity to produce 130,000 tonnes of titanium dioxide concentrate and 70,000 tonnes of titanium dioxide slag per year, he said.
Titanium dioxide is mainly used to produce titanium pigment, the most commonly used white pigment. It is used to add capacity to paper, paints and plastics.
Kahnuj is carried out jointly by Iran's state-owned mines and metal holding company IMIDRO and Armenia’s EcoAtom in a scheme worth 2.04 million euros.
The "industrial" implementation of the Kahnuj titanium scheme is projected to cost $161 million which will come from selling so-called participation papers, Manzari-Tavakoli said.
The Kahnuj prospect is estimated to hold definite reserves of 150 million tones or probable deposits of some 400 million tonnes.
The operation of the Kahnuj plant will put Iran among an elite club of the few countries which produce titanium – a metal used in a range of high-tech manufacturing from military aircraft to artificial limbs. The country is currently a net importer of the material.
The main producers of titanium are China, Japan, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and the US.
Titanium is the strategic metal of the century, named after the powerful Titan gods in Greek mythology. Because of its strength, light weight and corrosion resistance, the metal is highly prized in aircraft manufacturing, with further applications in military, aerospace, marine industries, dental implants and industrial processes.
Iran’s other known titanium reserves are based in Anzali Lagoon in the Caspian Sea, which have attracted the attention of Japanese developers, according to Iranian media reports.
The Fanuj mine in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan is another base where a cluster of 30 deposits are each able to yield 1 million tonnes of titanium ore per year, according to head of the board of directors of Makran Steel Jamshid Jahanbakhsh Tehrani.
Iran needs more than $4.2 billion of investment over the next five years to bring the Fanuj prospect fully online, he said last December.
Iran’s potential for profit goes far beyond oil and gas, the reserves of which are the world's largest combined. It possesses 7% of the world’s total mineral reserves worth about $700 billion but officials say this figure could rise to $1.4 trillion with new discoveries.
The country has more than 3,000 active mines -- mostly privately owned -- that contain copper, iron ore and heavy rare earth elements, according to the website mining.com.
The mining sector, however, is underdeveloped and accounts for less than one percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
After the lifting of sanctions, officials have unveiled plans for $29 billion of mining investment, about $15 billion of which is about to come from outside the country, for a number of projects ranging from steel to aluminum, copper, gold, rare earth elements and coal.
In February, Deputy Mine, Industry and Trade Minister Mehdi Karbasian said Iran’s mining sector had more than $10 billion of investment pledges by the Europeans and Chinese under its belt.
Italy's Danieli signed a joint venture and agreed orders worth about 5.7 billion euros during President Hassan Rouhani’s tour of Europe then.
The Chinese are about to invest as much as 4 billion euros in Iran’s mining and mineral industry. A French aluminum company also signed a deal to invest in Iran when Rouhani visited Paris.