Underdeveloped but resource-rich Balochistan has a large number of metallic and non-metallic minerals as mineral deposits include copper, barite, fluorite, gypsum/anhydrite, limestone/dolomite, magnesite, chromite, coal, iron, marble and sulphur.
The province directly and indirectly plays a vital role in providing building material for construction activity all over the country. Cement and steel are the essential ingredients of construction activity. Presently, the total installed capacity of 28 cement plants is 17.312 million tons in Pakistan. The country produces four types of cements and the raw material — gypsum, limestone, clay/shale- used for cement manufacturing is found in abundance in the country. The country is set to rock the world cement market by making its entry in a big way. Limestone and delomite are the principal carbonate rocks of sedimentary origin.
The country faces acute shortage of steel products for construction activity. The state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) is running on the cash lifelines given from the government. The cash-strapped PSM is not in a position to meet even the current steel demand of around 6 million tons per year in the country. It produces up to 1.1 million tons of steel products per annum, meeting 16 per cent of the total steel demand of the country. The remaining 84 percent is met through imports. Private companies import more than four million tons of raw materials.
Ironically, the PSM is based on 100 percent imported ore. It has outdated machinery, which produces expensive steel. Critics say that the country has so far failed to establish state-of-the-art mini- steel mills in areas near iron ore deposits.
HUGE IRON ORE, CHROMITE DEPOSITS
Iron ore reserves are estimated at about 273 million tons. Balochistan is endowed with huge iron ore deposits. Iron ore deposits in Chaghi are located in Pachin Koh, Chigendik and Chilghazi areas. The reserves in Pachinkoh, Chigendik and Chilghazi are 45 Mt, 5 Mt and 23 respectively.
Development of value added projects utilizing indigenous ore, can meet at least the domestic requirements of chromite.
Chromite is the critical ore, which is used in manufacture of strategic materials. It’s wide-range of uses in metallurgical, chemical and refractory industries today have enhanced its importance as one of the essential element of modern industry.
Stainless steel industry is the major consumer of chromite. Stainless steel is the alloy of chromium and iron. The performance of the industry largely determines the demand of chromium.
The province is endowed with huge reserves of chromite. First discovery was made in 1901 at Muslim Bagh and Khanozai in district Kila Saifullah. Other occurrences of chromite include those of the Ras Koh Range in western Balochistan and Wad deposits of Khuzdar district. Zhob deposits were first discovered by Vredenburg in 1901 during the course of regional reconnaissance mapping of the province. Chromite deposits are characterized by variable sizes and forms. The ore bodies are generally small and average 5,000 to 10,000 tons. In Wad area, chromite is lumpy in nature and of high quality.
The experts stress the need for setting up chromite beneficiation plants, which enrich the chromium content of the ores making it physically and chemically suitable for its marketing. Such beneficiation plants should be set up close to the areas where mining operations are being carried out. This will ensure availability of raw material at hand saving the transportation expenditures.
LIMESTONE, GYPSUM AND MARBLE
Limestone of tertiary and Mesozoic ages are extensively exposed in Quetta, Loralai, Sibi, Khuzdar and Lasbela districts, particularly in the vicinity of Bolan Pass, Khost, Sharigh, Harnai and Spintangi.
The limestone reserves are in billions of tons. Dolomite reserves are not exactly estimated but very large deposit occurs near Lak Pass, west of Quetta valley.
The gypsum is used as the construction materials, soil conditioner and in cement industries. Substantial reserves of gypsum and anhydrite occur at Spintangi in Sibi district, Chamalang-Bahlol in Loralai district and Nisau-Vitakri in Kohlu district in Balochistan. Total reserves have been estimated over 300 million tons in the province.
Marble is the most valued mineral bestowed by nature upon Balochistan. Commercial marble occurs at a number of localities in Lasbela, Khuzdar and Chaghi districts of the province. Commercial marble is defined as “any crystalline rock capable of taking a polish and suitable for decorative and structural purposes”. Marble is largely used in construction and handicrafts sectors. Amongst the building stones, marble occupies a unique position. Since time immemorial, marble has been used in temples, mosques, palaces, monuments etc. as an ornamental and decorative stone because of its pleasing colors, attractive patterns and designs. Marble slabs and handicrafts have great demand in national and international market.
Marble in Chaghi district is of onyx variety and is being mined since 1950’s. The term ‘onyx’ signifies a banded variety of quartz, highly prized as an ornamental stone.
For its vast applications and uses, onyx marble has great demand in the international market. The onyx marble from Chaghi can meet the international standards and needs if it is processed efficiently.
Disorganized and mismanaged scheme of the things, poor technology and shy investment in marble sector are the main reasons for low growth in this sector in Pakistan.
The sector needs to be organized on modern lines in the country. The induction of modern technology in marble sector will increase efficiency of processing units.
SHIP BREAKING INDUSTRY
Gadani ship-breaking industry in Balochistan is the third largest in the world, employs about 10,000 workers and meets one-third of the scrap requirements of the re-rolling mills in Pakistan. The industry is a major contributor to the economy by meeting half of the steel requirement of the country.
Ship-breaking is a significant source of supply of steel for Pakistan Steel Mill. Gadani came into a ship breaking yard in early 70s last and within a decade, it emerged as second largest ship-breaking yard of the world. The Gadani yards provide indirect support to a number of industries in Pakistan.