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Mineral-Rich Balochistan – Serious Efforts Required To Reaping Large Profits

Balochistan is blessed with strategic mineral resources. There is hardly a mineral which is not found in the province. Serious efforts are still required to explore and exploit the mineral endowments of the province. Reko Diq in district Chagai is the fifth largest copper ore reserve in the world. Though the actual size of Reko Diq deposits in Chagai district is yet to be confirmed, yet the experts believe that it is bigger than Sarcheshmeh in Iranian province of Kerman and Escondida in Chile. Reko Diq includes the Tanjeel mineral resource and the western porphyries. Tanjeel resource is estimated at 128.8 million tons. The western porphyries, the four adjacent porphyry bodies with medium to long term potential, is the core resource of Reko Diq mine. The inferred resource for the western porphyries has been calculated at 729 million tons with a copper grade of 0.64 percent and a gold grade of 0.39 grams per ton. A further 14 mineralized porphyry bodies are known to exist, with the potential to place the Reko Diq Project among the largest undeveloped copper resources on the globe. The TCC had estimated annual production 200 to 500 million copper tonnes from the project. Saindak project in Chagai district contains ore reserves of 412 million tons. Under a formal contract worth $350 million, the MCC of China acquired the Saindak project on lease for the period of ten years in September 2002. Since 2004, Chinese are extracting copper and gold from Saindak mine with an estimated life of 19 years.

Balochistan is rich in zinc and lead resources. So far thirty prospects of Zinc-Lead mineralizations have been located in Lasbela and Khuzdar districts. In these districts, three significant deposits of zinc and lead have been evaluated at Duddar, Gunga and the Surmai. The estimated reserves at Duddar are 14 million tonnes, Gunga 18 million tonnes and the Surmai 3 million tonnes. At present, Pakistan has to import lead and zinc to meet its domestic needs. It is expected the country would soon be an important producer and exporter of zinc and lead after development of thirty prospects of Zinc-Lead mineralizations in the Lasbela and Khuzdar districts and mining of significant deposits of these minerals at Gunga and Surmai.

Pakistan and China had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2002 for the Duddhar Lead & Zinc Project. A Chinese company launched the Duddar project in April 2005. The project has mining and concentrating capacity of 660,000 tons a year. Once completed, the mine will be able to enhance its production to 100,354 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 32,584 tonnes of lead concentrate annually.

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 tonnes. In Wad area, chromite is lumpy in nature and of high quality.

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. The imports of various value added products such as basic refractories, metallurgical products and chromite chemicals far exceeds the earnings from the exports of raw materials.

Balochistan possesses huge reserves of coal at Hamai, Degari, Mach, Ziarat, Chamalang and Abegum. The estimated reserves of all coal fields in the province are 217 million tonnes. Coal is the cheapest source of thermal energy used in industrial sector. It has the potential to replace other expensive fuels such as furnace oil. Unfortunately, Pakistan Steel is still importing coal from foreign countries, which cost the country Rs.6000-10000 a tonne.

It is generally argued that it is not feasible for Pakistan Steel to use Balochistan coal with larger sulphur content, as sulphur gets accumulated in different parts of the boiler. Raw coal contains different impurities like sulphur, calcite, clay, rock and shale. This impure coal cannot be utilized in the industry hence impurities must be washed out. For saving energy and cost, there is a need to set up coal washing plants in the province. Presently, bricks makers utilize over 80 percent of the local coal and the rest are being consumed by cement makers to blend it with the imported coal to reduce the cost of production.

It would be cost-effective for Pakistan Steel to mix the cheap local coal with the imported one. The quality of Chamalang coal is better than the rest of coal being mined from different coalfields in Balochistan. Pakistan Steel should buy Chamalang coal.

The iron ore deposits are found at Dilband, Chilghazi, Lasbella, Nokkundi and other areas of district Chagai in the province. Recently discovered Iron ore deposits at Dilband in Mastung district of Balochistan are considered the country’s first ever economically exploitable deposits. According to an estimate, Dilband resource of over 200 million tonnes of iron ore contains between 30 to 40 per cent iron. It is substantial iron ore deposit is bound to play an important role in future industrialization and economic development of the country.

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.

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.

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. The efficiency of marble processing industry depends on the quarry products.

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