ISLAMABAD: An agreement between Pakistan and China on the exploration and production of power from the Thar coal reserves is expected to be signed during Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to the country. Jiabao is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on December 18.
Chin Wa, a Chinese company, has already completed a survey of two blocks of Thar coal and the agreement is expected to cover the exploration, mining and the proper use of coal. The World Bank has said that a draft of a feasibility report will be prepared based on survey results.
Sources have said that various Chinese companies had expressed interest in generating electricity from Thar’s coal reserves in the past and China had approached Pakistani officials about this issue in the past.
Sources added that Chinese companies are willing to invest in coal exploration and this view had been expressed by China Coal Technology and Engineering Group President Wang Jinbao in a meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. In response, President Asif Ali Zardari had also directed the Thar Coal Energy Board to prepare an updated report on the situation.
A Pakistani delegation had earlier gone to China in preparation for the prime minister’s visit and completed preparations for announcements and memorandums of understanding that are expected to be finalized during the prime minister’s visit.
Thar coal specifics
Total reserves of coal in eight blocks in Tharparker are approximately 175 billion tons and are contained in an area of around 9,000 square kilometres, according to sources. Sources from the ministry of commerce informed that a survey of coal blocks 1-4 had been completed by the geological survey of Pakistan. According to the survey, the first four blocks contain 2,567 million tons, 1,558 million tons, 2,008 million tons and 2,471 million tons of coal respectively. Blocks 5-6 of Thar coal, surveyed by Chin Wa, contain 1,394 million tons and 1,656 million tons of coal respectively.
Engro Chemical is due to start mining activity in block 2 of Thar coal in collaboration with the Sindh government. Block 6 has been given to a Pakistani company, Orical Coal Field, which has completed preparations for coal excavation and power generation.
According to a briefing given to the Economic Coordination Committee, the reserves in each block of Thar coal are enough to generate up to 10,000 megawatts of power within 2.5 years.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2010