Gchine Coverup Part 3: Involvement of Amad and MOD

by David Albright and Sarah Burkhard

June 9, 2022

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Documents in the Iran Nuclear Archive expose how in 2003/2004, top level Iranian nuclear and military officials secretly transferred control of the Amad Plan’s Gchine mine and uranium concentration plant from the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), providing a civilian cover story for the facility, at the time Iran’s only domestic uranium mine and mill. Archive documents place Gchine as built and initially operated under the MODAFL as part of the Amad Plan to produce uranium ore concentrate for the initial steps in Iran’s production of weapon-grade uranium. The record establishes that the AEOI has falsely declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the Gchine mine and mill was a civilian facility under its supervision and has used falsified Iranian official documentation to support the claim. This case illustrates Iran’s efforts, many of which are on-going, to deceive the IAEA about its nuclear activities.

Iran’s Nuclear Archive contains documentary evidence demonstrating Iran’s deceptions in its declarations to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its past military nuclear activities. These deception activities continue today. The extent of its duplicity, involving high level officials, false statements, and altered documents, is illustrated by the case of the Gchine uranium mine and yellowcake production plant, or “mill,” located in southern Iran near Bandar Abbas.

The product of the Gchine mine, or alternatively called in the archive the Bandar Project, was uranium ore concentrate (UOC) or yellowcake. The Gchine mine and mill was being built secretly in the early 2000s as part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, codenamed the Amad Plan (see Figure 1). It would have produced the key nuclear source material for Iran’s production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons in the 2000s. The plant was nearly complete in August 2002, and by mid-2004, had begun initial operations. At the time, Gchine was Iran’s only domestic source of uranium; its civilian uranium mine and mill were years behind schedule, were receiving fewer resources, and would not operate for over a decade. After the closure of the Amad Plan and the downsizing of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a priority was keeping Gchine operational for both civilian and potential nuclear weapons reasons while denying to the IAEA and the world that it has ever been part of a nuclear weapons program.  

Timeline of Iran’s Deception about the Gchine Mine and Mill

  • ~1999 – 2003: Iran secretly builds Gchine mine and mill as uranium source for the Amad nuclear weapons program under Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), contracting Kimia Maadan (KM) for early design and construction work.
  • December 22, 2001: Kimia Maadan is dissolved; further construction of Gchine remains under military control.
  • ~August 2002: Gchine mine and mill appears near completion.
  • March 18, 2003: As ordered by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC, chaired by Hassan Rouhani, later president) and approved by Gholam Reza Aghazadeh (then head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)), Iran starts to transfer control of Gchine from MODAFL to AEOI.
  • April 8, 2004: Deadline for AEOI to decide whether the company Kimia Maadan or an AEOI-affiliated company should be the cover story to hide military involvement.
  • October 2003: Iran agrees to a policy of full transparency with IAEA.
  • December 2003: Iran provisionally implements the Additional Protocol.
  • 2003/early 2004: Iran’s still secret Gchine mine and mill reaches operational status. Satellite imagery indicate initial operations of Gchine had begun by June 2004.
  • May 21, 2004: Iran makes its Additional Protocol declarations, which includes its first declaration of Gchine and details about Gchine, to the IAEA.
  • July 2004: According to Iran, Gchine mine and mill had begun production in July 2004 with the goal to produce 21 tons of uranium per year.
  • ~ September 2004 (via new information from The Wall Street Journal): : IRGC-general Seyed Ali Hosseini Tash warns head of Amad Mohsen Fakhrizadeh to expect questions about Gchine from the IAEA. He orders Fakhrizadeh to come up with a “comprehensive scheme,” which turns out to involve falsification of dissolution records of Kimia Maadan to show that KM existed until mid-2003, in support of the claim that the AEOI was in charge of Gchine’s construction throughout. Tash also notes the need for a senior level “policy committee” to approve the final scheme.
  • ~2004: Iran prepares falsified dissolution records of Kimia Maadan, showing it was dissolved on June 8, 2003, rather than on December 22, 2001.
  • 2008: Iran’s fabrication of events and falsified dissolution document are recounted in an IAEA report, which states, “because of KM’s financial problems, the company ceased work on the Gchine project in June 2003, when the three-year contract with the AEOI came to an end. Iran stated that KM was officially deregistered on 8 June 2003 and provided a document supporting this statement.” The IAEA concluded: “The information and explanations provided by Iran were supported by the documentation, the content of which is consistent with the information already available to the Agency.”
  • 2015: In a partial, but still incomplete, reversal of its 2008 conclusion, the IAEA reports: “Information available to the Agency prior to November 2011 indicated that the Gchine mine was a potential source of uranium for use in undeclared nuclear activities in the period 2000-2003.”
  • 2018/2019: The IAEA receives the Iranian Nuclear Archive, revealing Iran’s deception about Gchine. 

Figure 1. The Gchine yellowcake production plant, or mill, as seen in a photo discovered in the Iran Atomic or Nuclear Archive.

The archive materials expose how in 2003/2004 Iran transferred control of the Amad Plan’s Gchine mine and uranium concentration plant from the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), providing a civilian cover story for the facility while defusing international pressure and helping Iran avoid admission of its secret nuclear weapons program. Iran’s consistent deception and denials to the IAEA about this site contributed to its success in keeping operational, during a period of intense international pressure, this critical element of its emerging nuclear fuel cycle and residual nuclear weapons capability. However, concocting an effective cover story was not simple.

The Institute has written earlier about this case, translating and analyzing Farsi-language documents, corroborating them with information available on official Iranian websites and IAEA safeguards reports from around the time, and publishing two comprehensive reports.1 Recently, The Wall Street Journal obtained additional archive documents containing new details about the Gchine case, in particular the direct involvement of senior MODAFL officials associated with Iran’s nuclear weapons program in organizing the deception.2 Subsequent to this reporting, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released the set of documents given to The Wall Street Journal. This report integrates the new documentary evidence into our previous archive documentation, adding to the sequence of events of Iran’s deception about Gchine.

Read the full report in pdf here.

1. David Albright, Olli Heinonen, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker, “Anatomy of Iran’s Deception and How Iran Benefited,” Institute for Science and International Security, December 19, 2018,; and David Albright and Sarah Burkhard: “Gchine Coverup: Part 2,” Institute for Science and International Security, February 20, 2020, See also Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons.

2. Laurence Norman, “Iran Used Secret U.N. Records to Evade Nuclear Probes,” The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2022,

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