Coal: The Real Black Gold

Written By: Sidra Pasha

"Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition"

Pakistan is a country blessed by many natural resources which are the assets of the nation and can contribute to the country's economy positively. But unfortunately, these resources are not exploited effectively due to the bureaucratic culture prevailing in Pakistan. To make things worse the international media has also tagged us as a terrorist nation which prevents foreign countries from investing here. This negative perception is like a plague which has forced foreigners to shy away from Pakistan. Therefore, it is high time to alter this negative perception and take an initiative in promoting Pakistan; specially its natural beauty and natural resources which can be used to attract tourists and foreign investment respectively.

One of the lucrative natural resources that Pakistan possesses in abundance are the Coal reserves. Coal - the black gold is found in all the four provinces of Pakistan. According to facts 3.3 billion tons out of 185 billion tons are in proven/measured category and about 11 billion tons are indicated reserves; bulk of which is found in the Sindh province. The current total mine-able reserves of coal have been estimated at 2 billion tones (i.e. 60 % of the measured reserves).

These coal reserves are well developed in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP. Surprisingly, the share of coal in energy supplies for Pakistan is 7.6% during 2004-05. Coal consumption during 2004-2005 was: Brick Kilns (49.5%), Cement Industries (32.1%), Power (2.3%) and Coke use (16.1%).

According to the Sindh Coal Reserviour:

"Pakistan has emerged as one of the leading country - seventh in the list of top 20 countries of the world after the discovery of huge lignite coal resources in Sindh.
The province of Sindh posses around 99 percent of the total coal reserves of Pakistan."

Since, Coal serves as a great asset to the nation, it is essential to enlighten a few more interesting and amazing facts about the Thar coal reserves i.e. if the entire oil reserves of Saudia Arab & Iran are combined together; these would approximately sum upto 375 billion barrels whereas, the Thar Coal reserves of Sindh solely accounts to approximately 850 trillion cubic feet, which is more than that of the oil reserves of Saudia Arab & Iran. Thus, Pakistan can cash upon the exploitation of its huge coal reserves. Furthermore; it is a known fact that the countries possessing natural and human resources in abundance make great progress. However; it shouldn't be of any hindrance for Pakistan when it comes to natural resources, but when it comes to the development of the human sector it is bothersome. In order to overcome this issue, efforts are already in progress and feasibility reports regarding the extraction of coal have already been made for persuading international investment. It should be noted that China is one of the major participants interested in this project.

The foreign minister has shared his thoughts related to the prospects of utilizing the Thar coal for generating thermal power with China’s top corporate leaders and also held talks with a top official whose company is carrying out the feasibility report on Thar coal. As per results the quality of Thar coal is relatively better than that of the imported coal by leaps and bounds which is presently being used for the purpose of power generation. It is estimated that the Thar Coal Power Project (TCPP) would attract over $20 billion foreign investment within six months of the project's commencement, claims an official of Sindh Coal Authority Board.

Last but not the least, the need for alternative sources of energy in Pakistan is at its peak which goes unsaid as electricity shortage is being experienced in almost every city. Nevertheless, Thar coal reserves plays an important role here as well as it is estimated that just 2% usage of Thar coal can produce 20,000 Mega Watts of electricity for the next 40 years, without any single second of load shedding. Therefore, local needs should be catered primarily and the foreign investment opportunity could be kept secondary with the remaining percentage of Thar coal reserves. Hence, it is unimaginable to predict the amount of energy that would be produced solely for power generation if these reserves would be utilized at its maximum.

It is high time Pakistan needs to set its priorities straight and focus on exploiting its own natural resources because importing tons of coal and oil only increase the import bill and there has got to be a very good explanation for not using Pakistan's own coal reserves, which would comparatively be better in terms of quality and cost as well. It is calculated that the coal power generation would cost Pakistan PKR 5.67 per unit while power generated by Independent Power Projects cost PKR 9.27. It shouldn't be much of a hindrance for the government to start up a power generation program as it requires an initial investment of about Rs.420 Billion whereas, the tax income that Pakistan generates annually sums up to almost Rs.1220 Billion. The Geological Survey of Pakistan should determine whether institutional, infrastructural and policy changes are needed to encourage the exploitation of indigenous coal resources and evaluate potentially attractive business opportunities associated with further coal development in the country.

Therefore, as a nation it should be taken as a feeling of pride that many foreign countries are interested in investing in the natural resources of our country which proves that Pakistan is not inferior by any means as perceived by the rest of the world. If all of its natural resources including coal would be exploited and utilized efficiently, none can restrict Pakistan from becoming one of the developed countries of the world. Times are changing now, since Pakistan has rich minerals, eventually it would be recognized as a money mending machine in the foreign markets with respect to its natural resources and it’s truly right that “COAL IS GOLD FOR PAKISTAN”.

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