MARBLE INDUSTRY DEVELOPING ON MODERN LINES IN BALOCHISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
Nov 12 - 18, 2007

Marble is the most valued mineral bestowed by nature upon Balochistan. It is an architectural material. It is widely used for cladding, flooring, counter tops and high-end furniture. Technically speaking, marble is metamorphic, crystalline limestone, distinguished from other limestone principally by its adaptability to receive a polish. It is used as an ornamental building stone, also for decorative and monument purposes. Commercially, marble is any crystalline rock composed predominantly of calcite, dolomite or serpentine, having 3-4 hardness, which can be excavated as blocks and can be sawed and takes good polish. It's decorative finish and durability makes it an ideal application in high traffic areas and can withstand extreme climatic conditions.

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.

Pakistan marble industry has been failed to benefit from the marble boom. 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.

Pakistan possesses huge reserves of marble in its NWFP and Balochistan provinces. At present, mining of marble is not done by machines. A lot of breakage occurs due to the outdated process of mining. Now to some extent utilization of machines has been started to produce qualitative products and increase its quantity. Marble industry in Balochistan lacks the technical facilities, as it has been neglected. The industry directly depends on the marble quarries. The province has undeveloped and unsecured marble quarries due to which the industry has been losing business. Other problems include shortage of water supply and lack of sewerage system, electricity infrastructure, improper road network, telecom system and law and order.

POTENTIAL

Balochistan is endowed with marble deposits. Marble occurs at a number of localities in Lasbela, Khuzdar and Chaghi districts of the province. Onyx marble is being mined since 1950's in Chaghi district. Onyx marble has great demand in the international market for its vast applications and uses. 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. We can earn from the export of this mineral millions of dollars by tapping the world markets and improving quality by value addition and bringing down the extraction losses.

Balochistan is also a major producer of granite and onyx raw material but their deposits are yet to be assessed properly. The onyx products are part of marble and granite industry and its export has also increased significantly. The export of onyx products in December 2006 stood at $1.314 million as against $1.05 million in November 2006 and $1.068 million in December 2005. According to statistics provided by Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC) exports of the sector, including marble, granite and onyx products was amounted to $21 million in the fiscal year 2005-2006, which was 28 percent increase comparing with 2004-2005.

MARBLE CITY

Present government has established a marble city at Gaddani in Lasbela district where the mining would be undertaken by utilizing the latest technologies to avoid wastages. About 300 units would be set up for the marble city on some 600 acres of land and investment has been made by expatriate Pakistanis from USA, Japan, Spain and the UAE.

The marble city is a step in the right direction. The government needs to develop processing centres with automatic tiling plants in the Gaddani marble city and the federal government has assured that the equipment would be imported for the purpose. The induction of modern technology in marble sector will increase efficiency of processing units.

MARBLE EXPORT

Balochistan has a share of nearly 50 per cent in Pakistan's total marble production of around 1.0 million tons monthly. About 0.3 million tons of Balochistan's marble is daily shipped from Karachi to nearly 52 countries worldwide. It has over 60 per cent beige color marble deposits, which are being exported. Pakistan exports marble mainly to USA, Dubai, Korea and Bangladesh. The European countries are still considered potential markets. According to an estimate, Balochistan holds up to 90 per cent share in Pakistan's annual marble export.

The estimated exports of marble and granite products stood at $18 million during the first half of the fiscal year 2006-07. Pakistan exported onyx-manufactured items worth $6.878 million during July-December, 2006, showing an increase of 4.47 percent as compared to the corresponding period last year. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, the exports of onyx products from Pakistan during first half of the fiscal year 2006-07 amounted to $6.878 million as against $6.584 million in July-December 2005, showing an increase of 4.47 percent or $0.294 million. The data showed that during July-December, 2006 the country had exported 3,934 metric tonnes, as compared to 4,251 metric tonnes during the same period of last year.

The steps need to be taken for increasing the export of marble in international markets through its better marketing. Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) can play a significant role in tapping the marble export potential of Pakistan. There is a need to monitor the international market and upcoming changes in demand and supply of marble. Marble quality and demand in international market may be raised further using machines in polish work and marble cutting.

MARBLE POLICY

Government should give a marble policy envisaging sanction of mining leases to different private firms under soft terms and conditions in Balochistan. Prospecting license may also be granted to the firms for ascertaining marble reserves in previously unexplored area in the province. Under the policy, private sector should be given incentives for making investment in the marble sector. Government must also ensure the security to the investors and technology upgradation through public and private sectors interventions.

Like Greek marble Industry, sector study for marble and granite products should be conducted at least after every five-year period to assess production activity in the sector, as it would help attaining export targets and maintaining quality up to the international standards.