Pakistan needs Chinese help to tap potential of mineral sector

Pakistan needs ample capital and modern technology to dig out its mineral wealth and add value, and this can be done with Chinese expertise and assistance, suggests a mineral sector expert.

“Pakistan desperately needs to have a well-established mining industry to tap into a great variety of precious, semiprecious and strategic minerals/gemstones and industrial stones,” said Muhammad Yaqub Shah, a member of the Sectoral Council for Marble, Granite and Minerals, Ministry of Finance.

Talking to WealthPK, he said as China was a great contributor to the mining industry and its value chain, its cooperation can help Pakistan boost its mining sector.

Yaqub Shah said different precious and base metals such as gold, platinoid group of minerals, silver, copper, lead, zinc, cobalt, bismuth and nickel, apart from Rare Earth Elements (REEs), were unexplored in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan.

Yaqub Shah, who is also former general manager (geology) of Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation, said GB alone had deposits of different minerals/metals, including 108 target areas of gold, 64 of silver, 295 of copper, 227 of lead, 102 of zinc, 136 of cobalt, 214 of nickel and 60 of bismuth.

“In KP, eight target areas have been established for finding REEs in a 200-kilometre-long host rocks belt stretching from Mansehra district up to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. All these deposits need exploration on scientific lines.”

He said to benefit from these natural sources, it is essential that Pakistan gets technical expertise from its countries such as China.

In 2022, China contributed 10% to global gold production and 43.3% of the total refined copper production.

During the current year, overall mining production in China increased by 1.50% in June from the same month in 2022, and is expected to grow by 4.10% by the year end. China is also the largest miner, and value-addition expert in REEs. If the Chinese mining model and value-addition framework are introduced and followed in Pakistan, a lot of small and large-scale mining and value-addition units can be established across the country.

The mining sector is not only a great contributor to the socioeconomic value chain but is also an important raw material source in a variety of industrial components like food processing, electric power generation, domestic and commercial constructions, etc.

In Pakistan, currently about 5,000 mines are operational providing employment to 30,000 people. About 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises are established related to this sector.
The mineral sector can be made more productive and economically viable through introduction of modern exploration techniques and mechanised mining.

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