Iran opens new gold processing plant to counter sanctions

Iran has opened a new gold-processing facility with the goal of doubling its production of precious metals, media reported over the weekend.

The plant, located next to the Zarshouran gold mine, will process up to 3 tons a year of gold, along with an estimated 2.5 tons of silver and one ton of mercury annually, using a "unique" technology created in Iran.

Iranian authorities say that is double the country's current gold production. The facility in northwestern Iran is near the Zareh Shuran gold mine, which has estimated gold ore reserves of 20 million tons, according to the news site RT.

The plan to mine and process significantly more gold is part of Iran's so-called "economy of resistance" introduced by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February. The economic program is designed to counter sanctions imposed against Iran in 2012 as a result of its nuclear program, which the West claims is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The sanctions have reduced Iran's oil exports by more than half from around 2.5 million barrels per day, says YnetNews.com.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Iran mined over 40 commodities and about 20 metals in 2012 – including 2,500 kilograms of gold. The country accounts for about 9 percent of the world's output of gypsum and pumice, over 2 percent of its barite, feldspar and sufur, and over 1 percent of the world's cement, sand, molybdenum and nitrogen output, the USGS states.