Thursday May 30, 2024

Pakistan’s copper wealth: A potential game changer

Demand for copper skyrocketed in recent years, driven by technological advancements, renewable energy projects

By Farrukh Saleem
September 09, 2023
Copper bars can be seen in this picture. — AFP/File
Copper bars can be seen in this picture. — AFP/File

Is it Pakistan’s moment to seize? Pakistan stands in a unique position, holding a crucial resource that fuels modern industries: copper.

Copper is integral to solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines, robotics, 5G, drone technology, biodegradable batteries, cryogenics, energy-efficient technologies, geothermal energy, quantum computing, and energy transmission systems. Remarkably, Pakistan ranks seventh globally in copper reserves, making it a significant player in this industry’s evolution.

The demand for copper has skyrocketed in recent years, driven by technological advancements, renewable energy projects, and the global shift towards electric vehicles.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and numerous other countries are eagerly eyeing Pakistan’s vast copper reserves, making it a potential treasure trove for the nation. These Gulf nations, with their multi-billion dollar sovereign wealth funds, are well aware of the economic potential of copper, especially as they diversify their economies away from oil and gas. Their interest reflects the global demand for copper, which is crucial for manufacturing electronics, building infrastructure, and expanding renewable energy sources. The question that looms large, however, is whether these billions will truly benefit Pakistan and its people.

Pakistan’s copper reserves, located primarily in the western Balochistan province, have long been known to be substantial.

However, extracting and utilizing this resource has been a challenge due to three factors: infrastructure limitations, security concerns and bureaucratic hurdles. Now, with the world’s focus on copper, Pakistan has an opportunity to turn this resource into a driver of economic growth and development.

To be certain, the path to realizing this potential is fraught with challenges. The government must ensure that agreements with foreign investors are transparent, accountable, and prioritize the interests of the nation. The revenue generated from copper extraction should be channeled towards public welfare, infrastructure development and education.

Local communities in Balochistan should be included in the decision-making process and benefit from the mining activities. This can be achieved through job opportunities, infrastructure development, and revenue-sharing mechanisms.

Pakistan should negotiate agreements that promote technology transfer, allowing the nation to develop its expertise in the copper industry rather than remaining solely reliant on foreign expertise. The government must develop a long-term strategy for the copper industry, ensuring that the benefits are not short-lived.

Pakistan stands at a crossroads with its copper wealth. The billions that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and others are willing to invest represent a potential boon for the nation. However, for these billions to truly reach Pakistan and its people, it is imperative that the government navigates this opportunity with transparency, diligence, and a commitment to the long-term welfare of the nation.

The global demand for copper is unlikely to wane, making it a valuable asset that can transform Pakistan’s economy and elevate its status on the global stage. The world is watching, and it is Pakistan’s moment to seize the copper opportunity responsibly and wisely.