Thursday, 12 February 2015

Iron ore, copper, silver, gold: reserves discovered in Punjab

Pakistan on Wednesday said it has discovered major reserves of iron ore as well as copper, silver and gold in Punjab. The reserves were found in Chiniot city in the Punjab, around 160 kilometres (around 100 miles) north-west of Lahore, by Chinese group the Metallurgical Co-operation of China. A senior provincial administrative official told AFP that initial estimates indicated 500 million tons of iron ore - a primary ingredient in steelmaking - had been discovered.

He said the Chinese company has expressed interest in setting up a steel mill on the site, adding that the extracted iron had been tested in Swiss and Canadian laboratories, which found 60-65 percent of it to be high grade. The official added that silver, copper and gold samples would also be sent for testing soon.

Speaking at the site on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the discovery could help Pakistan''s stuttering economy turn a corner and end its "begging bowl" culture. "It is Allah''s blessing that under the lush green fields rich deposits of copper, iron and gold have been found, which will help the country get rid of the ''begging bowl'' for good," Sharif said.

Conflict, instability, corruption and a chronic energy shortage have hampered Pakistan''s economy for years. The IMF granted a $6.6-billion loan to Pakistan in September 2013 on the condition that it carry out extensive economic reforms, particularly in the energy and taxation sectors.

APP adds: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday greeted the nation on the discovery of good quality copper, iron and gold deposits, hoping the same would go a long way in bringing prosperity to the country. He was addressing a gathering here after getting a briefing on the discovery of iron ore deposits at Rajua, around three kilometers south of Chiniot.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Provincial Minister for Minerals Sher Ali, parliamentarians, representatives of Chinese Metallurgical Corporation and German consultants attended the event. In a detailed briefing by Dr Samar Mubarakmand, Chairman Punjab Mineral Company, and representatives of the Chinese Metallurgical Company and German consultants, the Prime Minister was informed that there were indications of large copper deposits.

It was suggested that there should be more focus on excavating copper as it has a much higher value in the international market as copper fetches 5000 dollars a tonne against 100 dollars a tonne for iron. The Prime Minister was informed that with the assistance of Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), a feasibility study had been completed in around nine-month time, whereas it was to be completed in 18 months.

Nawaz evinced keen interest and asked a number of questions about the type and quality of deposits. He said he was personally there to share the joy of moment and to share it with the entire nation. He was informed that studies were being conducted currently in 28 sq kms of area, and initial findings showed that there was high probability of presence of good quality deposits in around 2000 sq kms, particularly in south and south eastern parts of Chiniot city. He was shown through graphs and 3-D models the details of the deposits and informed that there was also probability of finding copper and gold deposits in the area.

The Prime Minister was informed that the MCC along with other international mineral exploration companies evinced desire to participate in the project and were declared successful. He lauded the expertise and hard work of the Pakistani metallurgical experts and scientists. He also lauded the German consultant firm GEOS for supervising the work.

Later addressing a select gathering, the Prime Minister said he wished to address a huge gathering of Chiniot people, but the plan was curtailed owing to security reasons. He said the operation Zarb-e-Azb was going ahead successfully under the National Action Plan and soon peace and tranquility would prevail. He said Pakistan was confronting a number of challenges, including terrorism, extremism and poverty, and lack of basic infrastructure and facilities was one of the basic reasons for them.

The Prime Minister said ruling Pakistan was not a "bed of roses", rather it was a big challenge and his government was braving all the issues with courage, zeal, dedication and a commitment to bring about a positive change in the country. He said it was time that the entire government machinery worked with sincerity, round the clock, to serve the masses. He said the government''s revenues had declined as the price of petroleum products dropped, but since the move was aimed at benefiting the masses, the government took the decision. Low prices of diesel, he said, would benefit the agriculture sector and lower prices of food items.

He said had the government enough funds, it would have worked on projects to provide 10,000MW electricity without any delay. However, a lack of funds was hampering government''s efforts. He said there was a need for transparency at all levels of governance.

Nawaz said lower fuel prices had led to decline in prices of everyday commodities. The government was committed to providing good quality health, education and communication facilities to the masses at their doorsteps, he added. He said talks with Iran for the acquisition of natural gas were at an advanced stage. Negotiations were also underway on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. He said," It is Allah''s blessings that under the lush green fields rich deposits of copper, iron and gold have been found, which will help the country get rid of the "begging bowl" for good."

He said Pakistan is rich in natural resources and deposits of copper, gold, coal are available in other provinces as well, which will also be explored. He said the raw material available in the area was also attractive for investment and invited foreign and local investors to come and set up steel industry in Chiniot. He hoped that it would provide jobs to around 100,000 people and bring about economic prosperity in the area.

The past governments, he regretted, caused unnecessary delay in discovering the mineral deposits. He, however praised the present Punjab government headed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for expediting the work at a fast pace. He expressed the hope that Chiniot would emerge on the world map as a favourite spot for international investors. Necessary infrastructure would be built well in advance for provision of better facilities, he added. The Prime Minister expressed his pride on friendship with China and thanked Chinese and German experts for working together on the project to unearth the precious minerals.

He said the government was working on Pak-China economic corridor from Khunjerab to Gwadar which would ensure economical growth and prosperity, besides further strengthening ties between the two countries. He said the government would generate electricity from Thar coal reserves. Provision of electricity on economical prices besides its generation was the main agenda of government, he added.

The Prime Minister was informed that the quality of iron ore deposits was equivalent to similar ones in Brazil, Russia and India, and had been estimated in thousands of tons. Samples had been tested by top laboratories of Canada and Switzerland, which confirmed the high quality of deposits.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif termed the project a game-changer and said with Allah Almighty''s help the country had been endowed with a rich natural resource that would usher in an era of prosperity in the country. He said his government embarked on the project with full sincerity and commitment to find iron ore deposits, but the country was lucky to have found precious deposits of copper and gold.

He attributed the great find to the transparent award of contracts and sincerity of purpose and said the entire funding for the project had been provided by the Punjab government, under the guidance of the Prime Minister. Dr Samar Mubarakmand, Chairman Punjab Mineral Company, said in general copper deposits were discovered along with gold and suggested that the area of research be expanded and divided among different companies for excavation and production.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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