Lifting of sanctions seen boosting Iran’s mining sector after years of underinvestment – by Ilan Solomons (Mining – October 2, 2015)

The agreement reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, Austria, in July over the country’s nuclear programme is reopening the Iranian economy to global trade and investment after ten years of international sanctions against the country.

US-based think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recounts that the US, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union imposed multiple sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme since the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, found in September 2005 that Tehran was not compliant with its international obligations.

“The US spearheaded international efforts to financially isolate Iran and block its oil exports to raise the cost of Iran’s efforts to develop potential nuclear weapons capability and bring its government to the negotiating table,” the CFR says.

However, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear programme and intensive inspections in the agreement signed with China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany on July 14. The CFR explains that, under the agreement, many of the most punishing sanctions are poised to be lifted when the IAEA verifies that Iran has taken steps such as reducing its stockpiles of fissile materials and centrifuges.

“Still, some sanctions are unrelated to nuclear proliferation and will remain in place,” the CFR points out.

Nonetheless, Iran-based business services company Iran Europe Industrial & Trading Group marketing and sales senior manager Hooman Khajehnasiri tells Mining Weekly that since the agreement was reached, many mining company executives have been visiting Iran to find out about opportunities in the country.

He predicts that there will be a significant increase in the number of mining projects that Europe- and even North America-based companies undertake in Iran in the coming months, particularly owing to the ability of these companies to raise finance for such projects.

The lifting of sanctions will also enable companies to import mining and mineral processing technologies, as well as general equipment, to Iran with less administrative and legal challenges, which will assist in improving the productivity of existing mining operations, he adds.

However, research firm BMI Research commodities analyst Mitchell Hugers says the lifting of sanctions will take at least three to five years to have a positive impact on Iran’s mining sector growth.

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