Monday June 17, 2024

Govt to end stalemate on mines, minerals in merged dists

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
February 15, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunhwa cabinet in its upcoming meeting will approve the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for exploration, value addition of the minerals and operation of the mines in the merged districts of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to break the six-month-long stalemate over the extractive governance in these districts.

The SOPs will pave the way for extension of the Extractive Governance Act 2017 to the merged districts and help regulate the mines and minerals sector in the former Fata.

The exploration, exports and value addition of mines and mineral in the erstwhile Fata had come to standstill after its merger with the province as there was no law and regulatory mechanism to govern the sector in the merged districts.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is rich in minerals and gems. The documents show its minerals and gems deposits come to 20 percent of those found in Pakistan.

According to the documents, it has 14 trillion tonnes of minerals including barite, dolomite, fluorite, soap stone, salt, silica, china clay, chromite, serpentine, hematite, etc. Its coal deposits have been assessed at 90 million tonnes. The gems deposits which include emeralds, ruby quartz, epidote, pink topaz, conundrum, peridot, etc, have been estimated at 70 million carats.

The province has three billion tonnes of marble and granite deposits, which comes to 78 percent in Pakistan. It needs wire-cutting laser technology to restore 85 percent marble lost due to outdated blasting technology.

Under the SOPs for the merged districts, the local contractors and miners would get priority in the possession of mines and exploration and trade of the minerals found there.

The summary seeking approval has been submitted to Chief Minister Mahmood Khan by the Mines and Mineral Department through the chief secretary. However, the chief minister has informed the department that the summary would be placed before the next meeting of the cabinet for its approval.

The provincial minister for Mines and Minerals Dr Amjad Ali, while talking to The News, said they worked out the SOPs in consultation with local stakeholders. He said this was then submitted to the chief minister who had desired to seek the nod of his cabinet on it. “The cabinet, as we have been told, will approve the SOPs at its next meeting expected to be held sometime this month,” the minister said. He added they had started preparations for the management of the mines and minerals soon after the merger of these districts.

The minister maintained that as there is no revenue or settlement record available in the merged districts so their (local people) “jalasa-e-aam” (traditional revenue distribution), their jirga and local traditions have been taken into consideration. The taskforce that worked out the proposed SOPs, Dr Amjad said, had the representation of the local people and the procedures were prepared in consultation with them.

The local people having the possession of the mining areas would be given preference in the grant of lease of these mines and they would also be given all facilities for the value addition of the minerals and onward export, he added

“We have already formed a committee to propose amendments to the Extractive Governance Act aimed at enabling the government to grant leases and other facilities to local people in the grant and management of their mines and minerals,” he explained.

Dr Amjad Ali, who was re-elected on the PTI ticket from Swat in last July elections, said that 79 percent of the minerals in the province were still unexplored. He said recently a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the state-owned Chinese company for establishing a minerals development park in the industrial zone of Rashakai in Nowshera district. “They (Chinese) are arriving here for discussing the formalities for setting up the park for value addition of the export-oriented minerals of the province,” he said.