Iran exploits loophole to import missile-grade ore from Europe

Iran is using a loophole in Western sanctions to import a high grade of refined alumina ore from European countries that Tehran could use to make missile components and armor parts, according to recent reports.

Western sanctions were imposed on Iran because of its disputed nuclear program. Refined ore was excluded from European Union sanctions, but increased U.S. sanctions that went into effect on July 1 will attempt to close the loophole, Reuters reports.

"After July 1, new sanctions will blacklist metals trade with Iran including aluminum, coal, steel, gold, silver and platinum amongst others, and should include alumina," Mark Dubowitz, a sanctions advisor for U.S. lawmakers and President Obama's administration, said, according to Reuters.

Alumina is a refined version of bauxite, a raw ore. In its high purity or chemical grade form, alumina can be used for military purposes. Iran may be able to manufacture weapons grade ceramic composites using chemical alumina.

"Iran definitely has the ability to manufacture missile parts locally," Mark Gorwitz, a consultant specializing in nuclear and missile-related technologies, said, according to Reuters. "They've done quite a bit of work on ceramic composites made with alumina, and used for manufacturing armor parts and missile components like nozzles and radomes."

Between January 2012 and March, Iran bought approximately 4,000 metric tons of alumina from Germany, France, Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia, Reuters reports.