Last week, Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Trade purportedly auctioned off the use of 6,000 mines without any official announcement on its website. News of the alleged auction was first published in a Tejarat News interview with Mineral Manufacturers and Importers Union secretary Kamran Vakil on July 6. In the interview, Vakil said that the mines’ reserves are valued at around 150 billion USD. He claimed that the massive auction was carried out in silence so that the mines could be transferred to individuals who “own rent.” The Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Trade responded to the Tejarat News report by calling it false and a “delusion.” According to official statements from the ministry, the mines were put up for sale due to lack of use and that the intent behind the supposed auction was to revive the mines through cooperation with the private sector. Vakil had previously claimed that the mines were not inactive, but rather had been handpicked as especially high-quality sites.
In a press conference Tuesday, July 13, Rouhani administration spokesman Ali Rabi’i responded to questions about the rumors surrounding the Tejarat News report. Rabi’i said that the order to privatize exploitation of the mines had come directly from the supreme leader’s office and that since the mines were considered part of “anfal,”* they hadn’t actually been sold, but rather the rights to use them had been assigned online between May 9 and May 17. Rabi’i also said that nepotistic business practices were not possible during the online process. There have been no reports of how long the assignment of the mining rights to private hands is intended to last.
* In Ja’fari Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, “anfal,” in addition to its principal meaning relating to spoils of war, also refers to ownerless property, natural resources such as rivers, beaches, forests, and mines, all of which is the property of an infallible Imam. In the Islamic Republic regime, the management and use of “anfal” is determined by the supreme leader.