Mining, CPEC and prosperity

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Naveed Aman Khan

 Our beloved homeland Pakistan is  blessed with countless hidden treasures of rich minerals and metals. These include salt, coal, copper, gold, iron, chromite, bauxite and various gemstones like  peridot, aquamarine, topaz, ruby, emerald, rare-earth minerals bastnaesite, xenotime, sphene, tourmaline, jade, onyx, marble, granite nephrite and  many types of quartz. Pakistan’s gold and copper  reserves are among top ten countries of the world.

Most of the mines are located in the mountains of  Balochistan, KP, Gilgit Baltistan and the deserts of Cholistan in Punjab and Thar in Sindh. Coal deposits in Thar are so huge that it has the potential to meet the requirement of Pakistan’s total energy needs of the next two centuries. Pakistan is focused on allocating expenditure on imported petroleum, oil and gas worth billions of dollars annually. Despite the abundance of various natural minerals, Pakistan has still not exploited its mining sector fully. But now, the government is giving this sector due attention and would like to explore it further.

Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Chinese companies are encouraged to invest in this sector. The mining sector of Pakistan is ignored due to its locations in remote areas where insufficient facilities have hindered the accessibility to areas that are rich in minerals. Under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, infrastructure is being up graded gradually and most of the  parts of the country have become home to good quality roads and additional infrastructure like railways is under up gradation. China is projected to invest more in infrastructure sector of Pakistan. This will make it possible to reach far flung areas with greater ease and accessibility. China is known to have good experience pertaining to the mining sector as it has developed its own modern technology that deals with new and improved industrial mining techniques. Utilizing Chinese experience and technology, Pakistan’s mining sector can be developed at an accelerated pace, one that we can heavily hope to achieve.

The mining sector can contribute a great deal to the national socio -economic development. For instance, recent development in Thar has thrust the remote region into a time of great economic development. This has resulted in the surprising reality of women who had no previous financial independence or work experience but are now driving dump trucks and subsequently earning a handsome amount. This sudden necessity of large number of labour requirements has changed the fate of hundreds and thousands of the inhabitants in Thar and Cholistan. Along the same vein, the schooling in Thar and Cholistan has improved eradicating poverty to some extent. This has up graded the status of women. Now a visible prosperity and satisfaction can be witnessed. As many as twenty one  mineral zones have been identified and proposed by the government of Pakistan. Some of the notable mineral zones are the Khewra salt mines in Punjab. For Minerals Economic Processing Zones in Sindh, the proposed sites are Thar (coal) and Lakra (coal). The proposed Minerals Economic Processing Zones in the KP include Dargai (chromite), North Waziristan (chromite), Kurram (antimony), Waziristan  (copper), Chitral (antimony), Besham (iron ore, lead), Nizampur (iron ore) and Mohmand (marble).

The zones and projects are planned to be set up near the source of the raw materials and, afterwards, the nearby areas are planned to have supporting infrastructure to increase transport and regional linkages. The mines are set to be given export privileges and enjoy large tax breaks, such like the Saindak copper and gold mine. The Chinese technology will be added on in a technical capacity where collaborative work will take place soon. A profit sharing formula is said to be in the works with regards to the aforementioned cooperation. The subsequent integration between Chinese companies into the Pakistani economy would be highly beneficial for both sides, win win situation for China as well as for Pakistan. Because of gigantic project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a vast  network of roads, Pakistan can earn a lot from the sector of mining. The entire world, especially China, has shown serious interest in mining sector in Pakistan. For instance, during my recent visit to China my Chinese friend, Mr.Tang from Qindao, showed his keenness in mining sector of Pakistan. He is mainly interested in gold mining. Pakistani diverse mining sector has great potential. By developing this sector over one million job opportunities can be created. Mining can successfully eradicate poverty in the remote areas of the country. If government of Pakistan pay significant immediate attention on mining sector Pakistan can enter in new phase of prosperity sooner. Life in Thar and Cholistan is not less than a misery. Notable Work on mining in these deserts will defiantly provide tens of thousands of  job opportunities which will bring prosperity and  real colours to their life.

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