Workers fearing joblessness if
nothing between coal miners and government worked out
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 05 - 11,1999
Over four lakh families, earning their bread and butter from coal
mining sector, are fearing joblessness at their place of work, as the coal mine owners
have decided to close down their business to protest against the levy of 18 per cent
General Sales Tax (GST).
The coal mine owners, in the province of Punjab and Balochistan, have
gone on a strike to lodge their protest against what they called the exorbitant imposition
Both Punjab and Balochistan Mine Owners Associations have unanimity in
their opinion to close down their business.
The decision of levying GST has affected around 250 coal producing
mines in Balochistan who closed their business from June 25 while mines in Punjab followed
in their footsteps from July 1.
The decision to close down all coal mines in Balochistan was announced
by Sardar Ali Ahmd Jogezai, the chief of Balochistan Mines Owners Association.
The coal mine owners have taken a plea that since they are unable to
pay what they called unaffordable tax hence they are forced to decide to pull down the
shutters of their business. Sardar Jogezai regretted that earlier the government had
imposed a tax at the rate of Rs 98 per tonne on coal and again it has levied the GST which
was beyond their capacity to afford.
The government has asked the coal mine owners to pay Rs 720 million as
outstanding dues on account of tax. He said that mine owners cannot pay such a huge
The Balochistan Mine Labour Federation, has, however, called upon the
owners' association to reconsider their decision as over 60,000 families sandwiched
between the government policy of imposition of the GST on coal mines and the decision of
the owners to go on strike.
The labour federation has sought 30 days period from the mine owners
for conducting negotiations with the government to resolve this issue amicably. The
jobless miners also staged a protest rally in Quetta last week.
Pakistan's great potential of mineral exploration has not yet been
exploited to its full capacity for the growth and development of the country.
Notwithstanding, concerted efforts by successive governments, its share in the GDP has not
grown beyond 0.5 per cent. The present government has also shown determination through
major policy initiative in order to expand mining sector activities mainly through foreign
and local private investment. Both public and private sectors are actively participating
in the development of this sector by indulging in mineral exploration and extraction. The
public sector investor in mining has restricted to the development of an institutional
base or for too large or too risky investment. The private sector investment is confined
to minerals. Over the years a considerable number of occurrences and prospects have been
identified and reported by a number of agencies. However, very few have been evaluated and
developed for want of high risk capital investment.
Pakistan has economically exploitable reserves of coal, rock salt, lime
stone and onyx marble, China clay, dolomite, fire clay, gypsum, silica sand, granite and
precious, semi-precious stones. However, very few have been evaluated or developed for
want of high risk investment and according to quantum index of mineral exploration is
concentrated in three important minerals namely coal, natural gas and crude oil.
The Mineral Policy has provided incentives like rationalization of
duties and taxes on imported machinery, equipment of precious and base minerals in
Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) has produced 260,679
tonnes of coal from its four operating coal mines, three in Balochistan and one in Sindh,
Pakistan has estimated deposits of 250 billion tonnes of coal. It produced 3,496,000
tonnes of coal in 1996-97, 3,145,000 tonnes in 1997-98, 2,276,000 in 1997-98 and 2,314,000
tonnes in 1998-99.
Lakhra Coal Development Company (LCDC) was set up to develop large
scale mechanized coal mining operation at Lakhra. LCDC has produced 232,000 tonnes of coal
for WAPDA's coal-based power plant at Khanote near Hyderabad.
The availability of 250 billion tonnes of coal with the country offers
a cheaper substitute of costly oil and of course deserves protection to get it fully
utilized to save much needed foreign exchange.
The import of petroleum products is projected to increase by
$422million to $1.8 billion during current fiscal year while $1.4 billion were spent on
its import during previous fiscal.
The import of crude oil and POL products during 1998-99 registered a
decline of 24.4 per cent when compared with its import of $1.75 billion in the preceding
year. In the presence of indigenous resources i.e. natural gas and coal, the economy can
given a better shape by minimizing dependence on imported oil.