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Review of enormous minerals and natural resources of Pakistan

Pakistan is 6th most populous country of world having a population of 219,652,490 people; which is 2.83% of the total world population. Pakistan covers an area of 881,913 km(340,509 sq. mi), approximately equal to the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom. It is the 33rd-largest nation of the world by total area.

Pakistan is one of those countries which have enormous rich natural resources. It is blessed with vast land, natural gas reserves, petroleum, extensive coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone and gold besides other natural resources, many of them hitherto undiscovered. In fact, according to one survey, Pakistan has the second largest salt mine, second largest coal reservoirs, fifth largest gold mines and seventh largest copper mines.

There are 92 known minerals of which 52 are commercially exploited with a total production of 68.52 million metric tons per year. The sector is a promising one with an average growth of 2-3% per annum.

Minerals are broadly classified into three categories:

  • Metallic Minerals: includes metalliferous ores, aluminum, etc.
  • Non Metallic Minerals: include dimensional stones, clay, salt silica, etc.
  • Energy/strategic Minerals: include, coal, Oil, Natural Gas etc.

Pakistan has immense reserves of a number of minerals and natural resources that include coal, gold, copper, bauxite, mineral salt, chromite, iron ore, and many others. Pakistan also mines a variety of precious and semi-precious minerals including ruby, topaz, and emerald.

Many of the natural resources of Pakistan have not been discovered due to various limitations. Some figures reveal that natural resources exploration is probably only 20-30 percent of actual deposit estimates. There is a need to develop a sound strategy to explore and utilize the resources.

The mineral sector of Pakistan despite of having huge reserves base of good quality minerals is still lagging far behind as compared to the world’s mineral market. As compared to the world’s minerals export market of 3,612 billion USD, the exports of Pakistan are negligibly small with a value of 1.17 billion USD during the last year. Pakistan is endowed with significant mineral reserves. The country has the world’s second largest salt mines and coal reserves, fifth largest copper and gold reserves, and second largest coal deposits, as well as an estimated 618 billion barrels of crude oil.

Core minerals of Pakistan

Oil & Gas: Pakistan has had to import increasing amounts of oil from abroad to satisfy growing consumption, making the country vulnerable to fluctuations in world oil markets. Pakistan has uncertain quantities of petroleum but known large quantity natural gas fields. Pakistan intensified the search for oil and natural gas in the 1980s. A number of fields have been developed, particularly near Badin, in Sindh and searching is continue for new and richer fields, which includes offshore exploration. Currently Pakistan imports crude oil and refined into various products. Pakistan’s refinery capacity well exceeds its domestic crude production.

The largest natural gas deposits were discovered in 1953 at Sui, Balochistan. The Sui gas field is the largest, accounting for 26% of Pakistan’s gas production. Daily production is 19 million cubic meters a day. A smaller gas field was discovered in 1957, at Mari, Sind. After that a number of smaller natural gas fields subsequently have been discovered in various areas of the country. A large network of gas pipelines links these gas fields with the main consumption areas of the country.

Dimension Stone: Pakistan has an estimated 297 billion tons of marble and granite reserves. These includes marble varieties such as Ziarat white, black & white marble and black granite. Around 40 different types of natural colored marble are found in KPK, Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces.

Gemstone: Gem deposits are mainly located in Mardan, Gilgit & Baltistan and in adjacent areas of Afghanistan. Pakistan produces world’s top quality. It includes emeralds, aquamarine, tourmaline, rubies, quartz, topaz, garnet, garnet and variety of other gemstones.

Gypsum: It is estimated that between 5 to 6 billion tons of Gypsum deposits are available in the areas like D.G. Khan, Mianwali, Kohat, Rohri, Quetta and Sibi. It is used as raw material in cement industry and for soil improvement for agricultural purposes.

Chromite: It is estimated that chromite ores deposits in Pakistan are around 2.5 million tones. The highest grade of chromite ores is available in Muslim Bagh, Balochistan. Pakistan’s chromite grade ranges between 28%-56% and is produced both metrological and refractory grades of chromite. Chromite ores are also being produced from Khanozai, Nisai, Gawal, Wad and Sonaro areas of Balochistan, and Malakand and Kohistan areas of KPK. Chromium is primarily used in the manufacturing of stainless steel. Though there is huge demand for stainless steel in the country but there is ferrochrome production unit in the country. The entire production of chromite is exported to china in raw form.

Coal: The total coal reserves in Pakistan are 185 billion tones, both energy and fuel coal. According to experts, there is 175 billion tonnes of coal available in Thar, which is equal to 618 billion barrels of crude oil. Thar Coal is environmentally friendly with a low Sulfur content. These coals reserves are high in Sulphur and Ash contents. The moisture percentage is also high in Sindh coal, especially in the Thar coal.

The four ongoing projects of coal-fired power plants in Tharparkar would produce 2,300 megawatts over a period of four to five years. Four companies are executing the coal projects with a total cost of $4.7 billion.

Iron Ore: The Iron Ore deposits in Pakistan are estimated around 1.427 billion tons. It is found in various regions of Pakistan including Nokundi, Chinot and the largest one in Kalabagh, Haripur and other Northern Areas.

Copper and gold

There are estimated over 1600 million tons of gold reserves in Pakistan. Main deposits of copper and gold are present In Reko Diq, Balochistan, There are also copper deposits in Daht-e-Kuhn, Nokundi, located in Chaghi district. Reko Diq is a giant copper and gold project in Chagai district, Balochistan, in a desert area 70 kilometres northwest of Naukundi. Reko Diq is close to Pakistan’s border with Iran and Afghanistan.

According to experts, Reko Diq has proven gold and copper reserves worth US$260 billion and estimated gold and copper reserves worth US$3 trillion. Mineweb.com has stated that Reqo Diq is believed to be one of the world’s largest reserves of gold and copper. Reko Diq is believed to contain 12.3 million tonnes of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold in inferred and indicated resources. Meanwhile, some experts also believe that Reqo Diq also contains rare earth elements. These elements, which are even more precious and in much greater and growing demand than gold, are used in latest high-tech equipment and batteries for all electric cars, etc. It is China that controls 95% of the world’s supply of rare elements.

Pakistan mineral sector is still lagging far behind the world’s mineral market despite of having huge reserves and comparative advantage. There are gaps in exploitation and marketing of these mineral. The National Regulatory Framework has many missing links between the national mineral policy and the provincial mining policies. This is the main obstacle in foreign investment. Also vital infrastructure are missing. Outdated technology is being used for mining and processing is also obsolete. The mining wastage in Pakistan reaches 75% as compared to the international standard of up to 45%. Hence we are unable to produce export quality products and losing potential foreign exchange.

The author, Mr. Nazir Ahmed Shaikh, is a freelance columnist. He is an academician by profession and writes articles on diversified topics. He could be reached at nazir_shaikh86@hotmail.com 

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