Resource Diversity In Pakistan: How Mineral Resources Can Aid Economic Revival? – OpEd


The first-ever Pakistan Minerals Summit will be held on Tuesday, August 1, 2023, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Petroleum and Nutshell Conferences Group. The highly anticipated event is entitled “Dust to Development: Investment Opportunities in Pakistan” and seeks to examine and take use of the enormous potential of the mining sector.

The conference on minerals is expected to bring together significant corporate figures from Pakistan, international investors, and sector specialists for thought-provoking debates. The event will also feature participation of renowned ministerial delegations from United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, demonstrating world’s interest in Pakistan’s mining industry. The event will stimulate networking, knowledge-sharing, and exploration of attractive investment prospects with an emphasis on building global collaboration and partnerships. The conference will determine the trajectory of the sector’s prosperity. The initiative aims to work together to enhance economic growth, job creation, and technical innovation in the mining industry via thoughtful discussions and innovative collaborations.

All this falls under under Pakistan’s flagship project Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) which has been established with a joint collaboration of Pakistan’s government and its military. SIFC has already initiated its task to improve many sectors in Pakistan such as Agriculture, Information Technology (IT), Energy, Minerals and Defense etc. It will prepare a long-term road map for growth, development and investment in the relevant fields while capitalizing on low-hanging fruits

The mineral sector has always been highlighted as a basis of economic strength. Several developed countries like China, United States of America, Turkey, Italy, Chile, Australia, etc have always valued the significance of mines and minerals sectors and resultantly, this sector has contributed greatly to their GDP. Pakistan is blessed with abundant availability of mineral reserves covering an area of 600,000 sq. Km. 92 minerals are explored in Pakistan out of them only 52 have been exploited, reporting a total production of 68.52 million metric tons per year. However, the total mineral produced are exported at trivial prices and only a handful of one to two minerals are value added in the country that includes gypsum to manufacture cement and salt for Chlor-Alkali industries.

Pakistan has fairly large mineral resources ranging from metallic, non-metallic, fossil fuels and precious gemstones. Metallic minerals are composed of one or more metallic elements; possess thermal and electrical conduction properties and are economically valuable. Estimated chromite ore deposits in Pakistan are over 2.572 million tons with annual production around 237,000 metric tons. As per the Ministry of Energy, Pakistan has one of the world’s largest reserves of chromite mostly found in Muslim Bagh, Chagai, Kharan, Malakand and North Waziristan. Most of the extracted chromite in the country is exported to developed countries. Pakistan’s largest copper and gold reserves are found in Chagai Dist of Balochistan (Saindak and Reko Diq); Reko Diq reserves comprising copper bearing gold contain 0.29 gm / Ton of gold; therefore, basing on gold to copper ratio, it is amongst top five global gold deposits.

The largest deposits of iron ore are found in Kala Bagh. Recently discovered iron ore deposits by Global Survey of Pakistan (GSP) at Dilband in Kalat, Uthal in Lasbela and Nizampur in KPK are of great economic significance. Current estimated reserves of iron ore are 1,400 million tons with annual production of around 600,000 metric tons. Whereas, Lead and Zince’s present estimated available ore, in the country is over 23 million tons; Duddar mine (Balochistan) is one of the largest lead and zinc mine in Pakistan. Estimated deposits of Antimony are 86,000 tons but detailed investigations may prove more tonnage. 

While, non-metallic minerals consist of chemical elements that usually don’t feature the properties of metals; weak electrical conductors and economically less valuable except power resources like oil, gas and coal. Barium minerals possess high specific gravity; suitable for oil drilling, x-ray shielding and manufacturing of paints and papers. Barium minerals possess high specific gravity; suitable for oil drilling, x-ray shielding and manufacturing of paints and papers and their estimated reserves for barites are 13.71 million tons and the domestic annual production of barites is around 220,000 metric tons. Similarly, the annual production of China Clay, which is mainly used in the ceramic industry, in Pakistan is about 20,000 metric tons, largely in KPK and Sindh. Large group of rocks forming silicate minerals that makeup over 50% of earth’s crust; mainly used in industry for manufacturing glass and ceramic products. Large deposits of feldspars are available in KPK, Chitral, Sindh and Northern Areas. Its domestic yearly production is around 40,000 metric tons. 

Punjab and Sindh’s land is filled with most of the Fuller’s deposits with annual production of around 9,000 metric tons which is used in oil refining and other industries. Furthermore, Sizable deposits of fireclay are found in Punjab and the same remains the main fireclay consumers. Its total reserves of fireclay is over 100 million tons and domestic production during the year 2017-18 was more than 838,000 metric tons. Silica and Glass Sand’s total reserves in Pakistan are estimated to be 557 million tons and domestic production during the year 2017-18 was more than 367,000 metric tons. It is mainly used for road surfacing, construction and other manufacturing materials. Gypsum is used for cement, plaster of paris, soil conditioning and decorative purposes; Anhydrite can be used as a substitute or in combination with Gypsum. Presently, estimated gypsum reserves are over 4,850 million tons. Domestic production of gypsum during the year 2017-18 was more than 2.5 million tons. The magnesite, which is suitable for the production of refractory bricks and fused magnesium phosphate, resources in Pakistan have been estimated at 12 million tons. Domestic yearly production is around 19,000 metric tons (2017-18). The rock salt resource estimate in Pakistan is billion tons and its domestic annual production is around 3.7 million tons. Exploration and evaluation of these deposits has proved the existence of inexhaustible reserves of rock salt in Salt Range. 40% of the total output is consumed by soda ash, caustic soda and leather industries; the remaining is marketed for domestic/human consumption.

Sherwan deposit (Abbottabad) is the primary producer of soapstone in Pakistan. Due to its thermal and fire-resistant properties, it is widely used in architectural applications. The domestic annual soapstone production is more than 138,000 metric tons (2017-18). As per estimation by GSP, Solid Fuel or Coal is more than 186 billion tons of reserves present in Pakistan (the largest being in Sindh; 185 billion tons). The annual production of indigenous coal in the country is expected to exceed 7.00 million tons in the coming years. Almost entire indigenous coal production is being used for firing brick kilns and by some industrial units. Three coal-fired power plants of 50MW capacity each based on fluidized bed technology have been set up at Khanot near Hyderabad. 2 x Thar coal-powered generation units with a capacity of 330 MW each are also functional. Not only these but some of the important gemstone deposits are also found in KPK, GB and AJK. 

Pakistan’s mineral resources hold immense untapped potential for uplifting the country’s economic performance. The government’s commitment to attracting foreign investment underscores the nation’s determination to unlock its mineral wealth and derive economic growth through sustainable mining practices. The idea behind untapping Pakistan’s mineral resources is to make Pakistan self-reliant in the area of manufacturing value-added chemical products by utilizing our own minerals with complete indigenous resource sustainability.

Yousma Gul

Yousma Gul is a lecturer at International Islamic University, Islamabad

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