Iran country overview

The economy of Iran

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Iran information index

Resources of Iran


Miners in Iran historically relied on manual labor until the early 1960s, when mechanized methods were introduced due to the opening of new mines and quarries. The mineral industries in Iran encompass both refining and manufacturing processes.

The most significant economic activity in Iran is the extraction and processing of petroleum, which generates substantial revenue. Natural gas production is also becoming increasingly important. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), operated by the government, is responsible for producing petroleum for both domestic consumption and export. Petroleum is transported through pipelines to the Khārk (Kharq) Island terminal in the Persian Gulf and then shipped worldwide via tankers. Although the main refining facility in Ābādān was destroyed during the war with Iraq, it has been rebuilt by the government, and production has returned to almost prewar levels. The NIOC also operates refineries in Eṣfahān, Shīrāz, Lāvān Island, Tehrān, and Tabrīz, some of which were damaged during the war but have since resumed production. These refineries produce various refined products, including aircraft fuel in Ābādān and fuels for domestic heating and transportation.

Iran possesses significant natural gas reserves, accounting for more than one-tenth of the world’s total. Besides the existing gas fields in the Elburz Mountains and Khorāsān, new fields have been discovered and exploited in the Persian Gulf near ʿAsalūyeh, offshore in the Caspian region, and notably offshore and onshore in southern Iran, with the South Pars field being one of the world’s richest. Gathering and distribution spur lines extend to Tehrān, Kāshān, Eṣfahān, Shīrāz, Mashhad, Ahvāz, and the industrial city of Alborz near Qazvīn. Iran’s two state-owned Iranian Gas Trunklines are the largest gas pipelines in the Middle East. Iran has contracts to supply natural gas to Russia, eastern Europe, Pakistan, Turkey, and India through pipelines that are currently under construction in neighboring countries, connecting Iran’s trunk lines with those of its customers.

The petrochemical industry, mainly located in the southern part of the country, experienced rapid expansion before the Islamic revolution. However, it suffered significant damage during the Iran-Iraq War but has largely been restored to its prewar state. The Rāzī Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of the National Petrochemical Company of Iran, operates in Bandar-e Khomeynī and produces ammonia, phosphates, sulfur, liquid gas, and light oil.

Iran has major coal mines in Khorāsān, Kermān, Semnān, Māzandarān, and Gīlān, as well as smaller mines in the north of Tehrān and in Āz̄arbāyjān and Eṣfahān provinces. Deposits of lead, zinc, and other minerals are scattered throughout the country. Kermān serves as the center for Iran’s copper industry, with copper deposits being mined nationwide. Since the 1990s, Iran has also started exploiting valuable minerals such as uranium and gold, mining and refining them in commercially profitable quantities. Additionally, Iran extracts fireclay, chalk, lime, gypsum, ochre, and kaolin (china clay).


In the past, Iran relied heavily on wood and charcoal as its primary sources of energy. However, in the 20th century, the country shifted to using petroleum, natural gas, and coal to meet its energy needs. Additionally, hydroelectric power generated from a system of dams is utilized for both electricity production and irrigation purposes.

The Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) of Iran was established in 1973 with the aim of constructing a network of more than 20 nuclear power plants. By 1978, two 1,200-megawatt reactors located near Būshehr on the Persian Gulf were nearing completion and were scheduled to commence operations in early 1980. Unfortunately, due to the revolutionary government’s decision in 1979, the program was canceled. However, with the assistance of Russia, one of the reactors was eventually completed and began operating in 2011, utilizing nuclear fuel provided by Russia. There are currently no plans to complete the second reactor.

The discovery in 2002 of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facility being constructed in Iran raised suspicions that the country was pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Since then, Iran’s nuclear program, which officials claim is solely for peaceful purposes, has become a significant source of international tension. This has led to escalating international sanctions against Iran, starting in 2006.

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