Iran plans to attract $15 billion of foreign investment in its vast but largely underdeveloped mines and mining industry sector, an official says.

“The huge quantities of mineral resources call for attracting and absorbing domestic and foreign sources,” Deputy Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Khazaee said on Tuesday.

Iran’s mineral reserves are estimated at a whopping 60 billion metric tons, including 37 billion metric tons of proven deposits. Officials say known reserves have been found on explorations over only 7% of Iran’s total area.

“The mining sector is in fact the main base and the mother of development for other sectors which needs special attention,” Khazaee said.

“According to the sixth national development plan which is in the formulation stage, $15 billion in foreign investment is envisaged to be attracted in the mines and mining industries sector,” he added.

Among foreign firms, Japan’s leading steelmakers have announced interest in Iran’s mining projects, including production of precious metals such as titanium.

Executives of Kobe Steel Ltd, Japan’s fourth-biggest steelmaker, and the State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) met officials in Tehran last month and discussed cooperation in Iran’s mine and mining industries sector.

Head of the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization (IMIDRO) Mehdi Karbasian has said the country plans $29 billion of investment in total in the sector.

The projects include production of aluminum, steel, rare earth elements, copper, gold and coal by tapping Iran’s mineral reserves, he said.

Iran possesses 7% of the world’s total mineral reserves worth about $700 billion but this figure could rise to $1.4 trillion with new discoveries, IMIDRO Chief Adviser Nasser Bozorgmehr said earlier this month.

The country is one of the top 10 mineral-rich countries where 68 types of minerals have been identified so far, including the world’s largest deposits of copper, zinc and iron ore.

Iran’s zinc reserves are the world’s largest, with copper, iron, uranium and lead ranked between seventh and 12th. However, mining and mineral industries combined account for less than five percent of the country’s GDP.

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