THAR: Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Monday said that the Thar coal project would "prove to be a game changer", as the government could save up to $6 billion as expenditure on fuel imports amidst the soaring prices of the commodity in Pakistan.
The PM's statement came during his visit to Thar Coal Mines Block-II where he was addressing the inauguration of the commercial operations of Phase-II of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC).
The prime minister said amidst the soaring prices of fuel, cheaper energy production via the Thar coal mines project would immensely impact development across Pakistan.
He said that the expenditure on petrol and liquid petroleum imports touched $24 billion. The premier added that the project was high on the government's agenda given the decreased cost of power generation.
In Thar's Islamkot Tehsil, PM Shahbaz inaugurated a 330 MW Power Plant of Thar Energy Limited (TEL) and also inspected the construction site of SECMC Mine Phase-II.
The premier said it was a huge mistake to not have taken advantage of the country's indigenous coal reserves. To discuss formalities, he announced convening a meeting of stakeholders on Thar coal mines next week.
The prime minister added that the federal government, in collaboration with the Sindh government, would chalk out a policy framework on the coal mines project with an aim to connect it with other coal-powered power plants in the country producing 4,000 megawatts.
He added that the cost of coal was expected to reduce up to $30 with prices in the international markets coming down from $67 to $44.
Coal-powered plants, the prime minister said, would prove a feasible operation for electricity production at the rate of Rs10 per unit and that the coal project would save Pakistan's foreign exchange, as well as help, thrive the national economy.
The premier said that the project would be connected through a freight rail track for the transportation of coal to other parts of the country in March 2023. He appreciated the role of stakeholders in training local professionals and workers, and also lauded the inclusion of women working in the field, particularly at water plants and dump trucks.
Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong was also present at the inauguration and congratulated the government on the successful completion of the project. He lauded PM Shahbaz for his “consistent devotion and firm support” in strengthening Pakistan-China cooperation including in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who was also present at the occassion, said that Thar — once notorious for its infant and maternal mortality rates, and malnutrition — had now emerged as a game changer and a public-partnership model of development.
The FM stressed replicating the collaborative projects in other parts of the country and expressed confidence that the prime minister would materialise the development plans at a fast pace.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said the Sindh government allocated 40% equity along with 60% contributed by Sindh Engro in the public-private partnership on the Thar Coal mines project. He termed Sindh as the ‘energy basket of Pakistan’, with immense potential for natural energy resources, including solar and wind energy.
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