The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in search of a US$10 billion investment to help it kick-start its domestic aluminium industry. Experts expect the industry to export over sixty percent of production, tapping into the growing global demand for the versatile metal.
“The government of President Hassan Rouhani has decided to revive aluminum projects including the one in Guinea,” said Mohammad Aghajanlou, director of the mineral industries department of state-owned Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization. “Import of bauxite into Iran via large ship is much more economical compared to what it was 20 years ago.”
Although the political will exists to invigorate the domestic aluminium industry, the raw materials are not quite as available. That and an overall lack of electrical generation has limited Iran’s output of the metal to 350,000 metric tons a year, which is below the domestic capacity of 470,000 metric tons. The current push to ramp up the country’s aluminium production would put its capacity at 1.5 million metric tons in ten years, according to Mehdi Karbasian, managing director of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization.
The cornerstone in Iran’s plan is the development of a bauxite mine in West Africa’s Guinea. The 50/50 partnership between the two governments has thus far failed to yield any results in a quarter century, however. Iran’s government recently engaged German firm DMT GmbH to advise them how to move the mine towards production, and a recommendation from the consultant is expected this fall.
“The mine in Guinea has more than 500 million tons of bauxite, but it’s far from the sea and there is a need for rails to be put in place,” Karbasian said. “We are weak when it comes to bauxite reserves.”
Ultimately Iran intends to build a pipeline from inland mines to a port, replacing what sparse infrastructure for transporting the ore there is at present. The bauxite would be crushed and mixed with water before insertion into the pipeline to the coast, explained Aghajanlou.