Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Saghand (Sagend)

The Saghand uranium ore deposit in Yazd covered 100-150 square kilometers, with reserves estimated at 3,000-5,000 tons of uranium oxide. As of the mid-90s exploratory and preparatory work was in progress at the deposit, though exploitation and extraction work had not begun.

The Saghand uranium mines were located in northeast of Yazd province, in central Iran desert (Kavir). This area had a dry weather and low humidity. In summer, the weather was very hot and in the winter it was cold, so that the maximum temperature in the summer goes up to 45o C and in the winter decreases to -15o C.

In deposit No. 2 mineralization was formed at the interval between 270m to 400m depth in lensoid bodies with the slope of 5-30 degree. The plan dimensions of this deposit were 300 by 400 meters. Ore reserve of this deposit according to two categories of C and D was estimated as 1,398,000 tons with the average grade of 562 ppm. mineralization in deposit No. 1 began from the ground level in the form of dispersed lenses with the slopes of 50-70 degrees to the depth of 16 meters. The plan dimensions of this deposit were 200 by 300 meters. Ore reserve of this deposit according to two categories of C and D was calculated as 152,000 tons with the average grade of 459 ppm.

Access to the ore bodies would be possible through to shafts (the main and ventilation shafts) 4 meters in diameter, which were situated at the south of deposit No. 2 down to depth of 350 meters. At 100 m in depth, a tunnel connecting the two deposits would be excavated, a length of 700 meters. The mining methods used to mine the deposit No. 2 were room and pillar, cut and fill, and sub-level stopping. Mining methods used to mine deposit No.1 were a mixture of open pit and at lower levels would be exploited using the connecting tunnel between deposits No.1 and 2.

Exploratory activities in Saghand area started after the Islamic revolution by using the information resulting from airborne geographical surveys. Through 1989 most of those activation were at the preliminary exploration stage and comprised an area spanning 200 hectares. From the beginning of the 1990 detail exploration works started and priority was given to the area covering anomalies No. 1 and 2 due to a better perspective from an ore reserve point of view. Finally in the limited area of the two anomalies, with the dimensions of 300 by 400 m and 200 by 300 m respectively, detailed exploratory works were performed.

In the detailed exploration stage, 600 Iranian and Chinese experts worked to yield a total of 104 reports in different related fields such as: performing 10,786 m drilling, 18,737 m logging using 12 different elements, and the creation of 214 sheet of maps. Petrographical and geochemical studies and trench digging were also carried out. At the end, by using information from these activities, logging procedures performed by the ELG geophysical company of Hungary and lithological logs were prepared by Iranian and Chinese experts. Ore reserve calculations were performed for the space between ground level to a depth of 350 m. According to the results obtained from exploration activities technical and economical evalutions and also preliminary and detail technical designs were created yielding more than 4000 maps and 135 volumes of reports.

A production plant for processing the uranium ore into concentrate was at the time reportedly planned for the area. In October 1989 Iran announced plans to build a uranium milling plant near the Saghand mine. The Argentine National Institute for Applied Research, INVAP, signed an $18 million contract to build a series of unsafeguarded facilities for processing uranium ore, although Argentina announced in January 1992 that it was withdrawing from the project under US pressure. China was thought to have possibly contributed to completing this plant after the INVAP pullout.

Iran denied unconfirmed reports that underground mines in the vicinity were being used for detonation testing associated with nuclear weapons development.

In February 2003, Iran announced that it had begun mining uranium deposits at Saghand (also spelled Sagend) near the central Iranian city of Yazd in Yazd Province, and was constructing a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, located 200 miles southeast of Tehran.

Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh, Vice President for Nuclear Fuel Production of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), discussed the project at the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium held in London 3-5 September 2003. The mine project was located 185 km north-east of Yazd, and covered an area of 20 hectares. The exploration completed in 1994 concentrated on areas, and resulted in a calculated reserve of 1.58 million metric tonnes of uranium ore with an average grade of 533 ppm (0.0533 percentage uranium). This translated into a total uranium contents of 842 metric tonnes. The underground mine would have two shafts, each 350 meters deep. Ores with grades above 300 ppm would be sent to the uranium mill, while ores with grades between 100 and 300 ppm would be exploited by heap leaching.

After accomplishment of a geological and exploratory operation and preparation of preliminary and detailed designs, mine development was under operation and was expected to be finished by the end of 2004. After the development stage, which meant opening the mine, exploitation activities would be started. The lifetime of the mine from the beginning of year 2005, with an estimated capacity of 120,000 tons, and 50 tons of ore to be processed yearly, was anticipated at 17 years.

In a 2005 briefing by US State Department officials to foreign diplomats in Vienna, the capacity and production expectations for Saghand were used to suggest that Iran could did not possess sufficient uranium reserves to achieve nuclear self-sufficiency in the power sector and that it would have to rely on outside sources of uranium if it sought to construct additional power reactors.




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