Summer 1995 (3.2)
Pages 16-17, 78
The Natural Mineral Resources of Azerbaijan
Waiting to be Developed
by A. M. Shekinski
Chairman of the State Committee of Geology and Mineral Resources of Azerbaijan
In addition to the well-known oil and gas deposits, Azerbaijan has rich deposits of natural minerals that are useful in chemistry, metallurgy, construction building and health therapy. These include ferrous and non-ferrous ores, rare and fine metals, semi-precious stones, as well as a wide variety of underground sources of thermal, mineral and natural spring water. Here is an overview of the minerals that exist in Azerbaijan and their current state of development.
The territory of the Republic falls in the Mediterranean Sea zone of Euro-Asia and includes both the Great and Small Caucasus geologic systems as well as the Kur lowland which separates them. In general, approximately 340 ore and non-ore deposits have been identified in Azerbaijan and about 100 of these are currently being developed. During the Soviet period, capital investment was centralized and, subsequently, the majority of mining complexes were built in Russia. Relatively few mountain mining and refining complexes have been built in Azerbaijan especially in relation to the wealth of mineral deposits that exist here. Now that we have gained our independence, it is time to begin undertaking more serious mining projects.
The raw material basis for the ferrous metallurgy consists of large deposits of high quality iron ore, bentonite clay, dolomite and flux limestone. All of the magnetite ores are concentrated in Dashkesan, South Dashkesan and Demirli deposits of the Dashkesan ore region. On the basis of these deposits, the Azerbaijan Ore Purifying Factory is processing 1.8 million tons of raw ore annually. The resources of these fields are capable of supplying this factory for the next 80-90 years. It should also be mentioned that in the Shimali (north) Dashkesan deposits, cobalt, chromate and manganese have been found. The chromate fields are basically connected with the ophilite complex and are present in the Goydara Group of the Kalbajar region and in the Ipek Group near Lachin (now under occupation by Armenians).
Unique industrial resources of bentonite clay, an integral part of ferrous metallurgy, are concentrated in the Dash-Salahli deposits of Gazakh region, which are currently being industrially mined.
The Khachbulag flux limestone deposit in the Dashkesan region has an estimated 50 million tons of reserves.
The Nehram deposits contain an estimated 10.8 million tons of dolomite which can be used in ferrous metallurgy as fireproof raw material. In this connection it has been discovered that, in addition, it can be used to obtain soda and metallurgical magnesium oxide. For such purposes, there is a confirmed deposit of 140 million tons of dolomite in that region.
Non-ferrous metal deposits take an important place in the Republic's economy because of the significant size of the deposits. These fields contain raw aluminum, copper, molybdenum, cobalt, mercury and other ores.
The production of aluminum in Azerbaijan is based upon the large alunite ore fields which are currently being mined in the Dashkesan Zeylik region. The Ganja Aluminum Factory operates on the basis of 130.2 million ton reserves. Three million tons of alunite are mined annually which means that the supply will serve the factory 40 more years.
Copper ore is found in copper-pyrites, copper-porphyrin and copper compound deposits which include zinc and lead, while the copper-pyrites deposits in the Small Caucasus include gold. The copper-porphyrin fields are of special interest. They can be found in the Garadag deposits, Ordubad (Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic) and Balakan-Zakatal ore region. Copper-pyrites deposits have been discovered in the Balaken-Zagatala region.
It should be noted that more than 90% of discovered deposits in Azerbaijan are concentrated in the regions of Filizchay, Kasdagh, Kateh and Sagatar. To date, six mineral compound fields have been explored; additionally two deposits have been studied in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic-namely, Gumushluk and Aghdara regions which are already being mined.
The possibility of developing a large metallurgical complex based on the Filizchay deposits exists. The deposits are so large there that such a complex would be profitable for many decades. The reserves of Kasdag and Kateh copper-metal compounds, Sagator copper-zinc and Mazimchay copper-pyrites ore deposits are also under consideration for being part of such a future mining metallurgical complex.
Up to the present there have been six mercury fields discovered in the Republic, but only two of them are currently being mined. The Mercury Plant in Kelbajar (now under occupation by Armenians) operated from the Agyatag and Shorbulag fields until 1980.
The industrial resources of the Levchay mercury-antimony field as well as the Aggaya, Narzanli, and Chilgaz mercury deposits have not been exploited yet. However, expeditions have revealed the Aylis antimony field in Ordubad (Nakhchivan) and the prognosis suggests that there are large antimony deposits there.
One of the most significant geological discoveries in recent years are the gold deposits. Geological expeditions have confirmed the Vejnali quartz-gold field in Zangilan and of the Gizilbulag gold-copper-pyrite deposits in Karabakh (now under Armenian occupation). There are also reserves in Agyurd, Piyasbashi, Shakardara quartz-gold deposits in the Ordubad region, Agduzdag quartz-gold deposit in Dalidag, Gedebey copper-gold-pyrite and Gosha gold deposits in Gedabay.
It should be noted that of the large Zod deposits from which the Armenians have been mining for many years, 65% are in Azerbaijan in the Kelbajar region which now is under occupation by the Armenians. Armenians are known to be extensively exploiting these mines during this period as Azerbaijan has insisted that as a condition for peace, this territory must be given back to them and the refugees be allowed to return to their homes and communities.
Iodine-bromine springs of which there are voluminous supplies are found in Khilli, Neftchala, Babazanan, Mishovdagh and Bina-Hovsan. Currently, two of them are being developed by Yeni-Neftchala and Baku Iodine Factories. These springs create great possibilities for the development of iodine and bromide production in the Republic.
In the regions of Nakhchivan and Zangilan, sodium and sodium-magnesium production could be developed. There are an estimated 736 million tons of Nehram rock salt, 130 million tons of Zangilan chemically pure fine limestone, and 140 million tons of Nehram dolomite deposits. This creates possibilities for the organizations of the production of sodium, salt, metallurgical magnesium oxide.
Azerbaijan has raw materials that can be used extensively in the building materials industry. For the past few years, 10-15 construction materials deposits have been discovered and recognized by the State Geological Committee. These include limestone, clay for cement production, marble, marbled limestone, travertine, gabbro, teschemacherite, dolerite, tuff, tufa sandstone, ceramicite for use in cladding material of buildings, as well as gypsum and perlite.
Ceramics and China
A number of fields have been identified that could used in the production of glass, delicate ceramics, porcelain and faience (glazed earthenware). Dolomite deposits from the Nehram field produce dark colored glass, plates and dishes and the field has an estimated reserve of 9.9 million tons.
After being purified, the quartz sand of the Ajivalli and Zeyni deposits can be processed to create light-color glass. Minerals found in Dashkesan, Nakhchivan and Khanlar have proven useful in China production.
Azerbaijan also has various semi-precious and decorative stone deposits which include agate, heliotrope, jasper, obsidian, jade, turquoise, diamonds, and marble onyx.
There are a large number of underground thermal, mineral, and spring water resources. Twenty-eight significant mineral water springs could be further developed at existing spas (health resorts), sanatoria, curative centers. The mineral water from the Isti-Su (near Kelbajar, a region under occupation by Armenians) can be compared to the famous therapeutic warm sulfur springs of the famous Karlovy Vary resort in the Czech Republic.
The natural mineral spring water resources supply a great number of towns and villages of the Republic and there is a great demand for bottled water even within the country. All in all, Azerbaijan is blessed with many rich and varied mineral deposits that have already been discovered that are just waiting to be developed.
From Azerbaijan International (3.2) Summer 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.