Officially announcing the discovery of huge iron and copper reserves near Chiniot district of Punjab, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the ‘great treasure’ would help Pakistan ‘break the begging bowl for good’.
“It is Allah’s blessing that under the lush green fields [of Rajoa] rich deposits of copper, iron and gold have been found,” he said at a ceremony at the site of discovery at Rajoa, three kilometres south of Chiniot. “Along with Reko Diq, these reserves are a great treasure which will go a long way in bringing a prosperous revolution to the country.”
Before he spoke at the ceremony, the premier received a detailed briefing on the discovery by Punjab Mineral Company (PMC) Chairman Dr Samar Mubarakmand, German consultants and representatives of the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC).
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), the prime minister was informed that the quality of iron ore deposits at Rajoa was similar to those excavated in Brazil, Russia and India. Samples of the ore were tested at top laboratories in Canada and Switzerland and were confirmed to be of high quality.
Experts told the premier that they estimated thousands of tons of mineral deposits were present in Rajoa. They said even though studies were currently being conducted in just 28-square-kilometre area, initial findings suggested there was a high probability that good quality mineral deposits were present in a 2,000-square-kilometre area, which includes the south and southeastern parts of Chiniot city.
The experts recommended focusing more on excavating copper ore as the metal fetched a much higher price than iron in the international market – copper is currently being sold at $5,000 per ton, compared to $100 per ton iron fetches in the international market.
Using graphs and 3D models, they showed the prime minister details of the mineral deposits at Rajoa and informed him that there was a probability of finding copper and gold in the area as well.
Prime Minister Nawaz was told that with the MCC’s assistance, the feasibility study for excavating the Rajoa reserves had been completed in nine months when it would have normally taken 18 months to finish. He was informed that several international mineral exploration companies, along with the MCC, have evinced their desire to participate in the project and were declared successful.
The prime minister praised the expertise and hard work of Pakistani metallurgical experts and scientists, and lauded the German consultants for supervising the work. He thanked Chinese and German experts for working together on the project to unearth the precious minerals.
Addressing those gathered at the ceremony, Premier Nawaz said national and foreign investors would soon be invited to set up industries in and around Chiniot.
“Necessary infrastructure will be built well in advance to provide better facilities [for investors],” he said, hoping that it would provide jobs to around 100,000 people, establish Chiniot as a favourite spot for international investors and bring about economic prosperity to the area.
“Allah has endowed Pakistan with rich mineral resources, a large quantity of which still awaits discovery,” he said, adding that the government would explore deposits of copper, gold and coal in other provinces as well.
While praising the incumbent Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, for expediting work at Rajoa, he regretted that past governments had caused unnecessary delays in discovering mineral deposits.
The prime minister said the mineral and coal reserves at Rajoa, Reko-Diq and Thar would help Pakistan become self-sufficient. These natural resources, he said, would be fully exploited for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. “All problems Pakistan faces now will be resolved within the next three years,” he added.
Speaking at the ceremony, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif termed the discovery of mineral reserves at Rajoa a ‘game-changer’ for the country. He said his government embarked on the project to find iron ore deposits with full sincerity and commitment, but the country was lucky to have found precious deposits of copper and gold as well. He attributed the great find to the transparent award of contracts and said the entire funding for the project had been provided from the Punjab government.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2015.