Point of contention: Mining association, K-P ministry continue to clash on policy

Published: December 6, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Introduction of new laws governing foreign investment has become a bone of contention between the provincial government and the Frontier Mine Owners Association in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (FMOA-KP).

An Ordinance, promulgated by the provincial government this August, would discourage the Chinese and other foreign companies who can be potential investors in the mineral sector of the province, said FMOA-KP President Sher Bandi Khan Marwat.

The Chinese would be the most hurt under the new laws, Marwat told The Express Tribune.

Chinese companies are the first potential investors who have expressed keenness to finance the mineral sector of the province, he added. However, the absence of a guarantee of interests in the new laws will discourage such companies, Khan maintained while describing the said Ordinance as controversial and liable to be rejected entirely.

On the other hand, Mines and Mineral Development provincial minister Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli while rejecting the impression told The Express Tribune that all foreign investors including Chinese are welcome to invest in the mineral sector of the province.

However, she said that all foreign companies, under the new laws, would have to register themselves in Pakistan before investing in the province. “All of them would have to follow the rules and procedure of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan,” the minister explained while giving the details of certain pre-conditions for the foreign companies.

She also rejected the association’s perception that foreign companies would not be allowed to enter into partnerships with the local industrialists. “Only those foreign companies who would register themselves would be allowed to work in our mine industry,” the minister insisted.

Officials in the provincial mines and mineral development expect that the Chinese companies would be interested to invest in gold, silver and granite mining.

Few clauses deemed as harmful by the association forced a few of them to challenge it in the Dera Ismail Khan bench of Peshawar High Court in September this year.

A stay order in favour of the mine owners proved to be a serious jolt to the mineral department that forced the provincial minister to bring some amendments in the Ordinance. “The proposed amendments that were agreed between the department and association would be presented in the December session of the provincial assembly,” the minister disclosed.

She also claimed that her department and the association have reached a settlement on many issues that were irritating mine owners.

She is confident that the Ordinance would become acceptable to the association after the proposed amendments are incorporated. The minister assured that she had accepted a crucial demand of the association about the renewal of mines’ lease after its 30-year expiry.

“A 10-year renewal would be granted to the mine leases after their expiry period provided the owner proves its utility,” the minister said.  The owners would also be allowed to engage sub-contractors in their projects after the amendments in the Ordinance, she further assured.

However, the association is not satisfied with the minister’s assurances, which reflects their mutual mistrust. “The minister has always backtracked from her promises,” Marwat said, adding we will not believe her until and unless all the amendments proposed by our association are tabled in the assembly session.

He warned the minister that the association would not withdraw its case from the BHC until all of its reservations about the Ordinance were addressed through the assembly.

The minister ignored the blunt response and said in a conciliatory tone that the mine owners would be surprised when the Ordinance will be amended by the assembly next month.

However, she made it clear that her department would not compromise on the financial interests of the province and its people.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2016.

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