AJK’s huge mineral, gems deposits can change region’s socioeconomic status

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By M Farooq Khan

MUZAFFARABAD AJK, Aug 21 (APP):Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) mostly dependent on tourism and labour is blessed with huge natural treasures worth billions of rupees and if exploited on modern lines could change the socioeconomic status of approximately four million inhabitants of the region.
“The significant deposits of matchless quality of gem stones like ruby, sapphire, green tourmaline, aquamarine and zircon only this region posses but unfortunately no due investment ever been made by the quarters concerned to utilize this wealth for human well-being,” Director Geological of Survey of Pakistan AJK Saeed Akhtar said.
He said besides this, there are proven reserves of billions of tons of industrial stones like graphite, Mica, Quartz, Bentonite, Limonite and Marble Stof high quality in different areas.
By unearthing these reservoirs, the government can earn billions of rupees revenue besides creating thousands of jobs through establishment of allied industry like cutting, polishing of gem stones, cement industry and graphite based industries, he claimed.
Gem stones found in upper Neelum Valley and rarely in Leepa Valley as well, ruby (aquamarine)
are comparatively more precious than the diamond being used in the world but more resources are required for their mass exploration and bring them in the international market.
Akhtar said old and obsolete way of exploiting these resources by using dynamites is affecting their quality besides their loss and only modern and sophisticated techniques are a solution to excavate this treasure with full potential and quality assurance.
Mining of Ruby is currently underway at two sites namely Chitta Katha and Nungi Mali in upper Neelum Valley by Azad Kashmir Mineral Industrial Development Corporation (AKMIDC). A private firm, he said , is also involved but both are yielding nothing productive due to outdated equipment and obsolete techniques to bring out this buried treasure.
“Besides gem stones their exist huge reserves of industrial stones like Graphite, Mica and Quartz which are used in making sophisticated equipments, electric plugs, iron and lenses of telescopes.” he informed.
The third major mineral potential of the region is building stones (marble and Granite) used as finishing tiles in the buildings, still to be uncovered for region’s betterment.
“The cost of quality construction is too high in AJK because majority of the construction material is transported from far flung areas of Pakistan and if this industry is revolutionized it can bring a significant change in the socioeconomic well-being of the people here,” he remarked.
Akhtar also suggested AJK government to establish a cement factory to utilize trillions of natural reserves associated with the cement industry available at Kamsar near Muzaffarabad.
“Geological Survey of Pakistan’s assistance in this regard, if sought, could be of paramount importance”, he suggested AJK government.
The AJK government does not have sufficient financial resources to buy new machinery or to build more mines, AKMIDC Managing Director Chaudhary Zahid Hussain regretted.
He feared the corporation is shrinking due to dearth of economic resources and only 45 employees are on its strength for a gigantic task.
“Exploration Promotion Department should be established within the government for auction of the minerals besides setting up a regulatory authority to attract private investment in this sector,” Hussain proposed.
The AKMIDC has just one mine and one exploration site, where miners dig to assess the potential of the ruby. But the region has proven reserves of more than 50 million grams of rubies, and inferred resources of nearly 60 million grams, a senior Geologist Khawaja Owais Ahmad, an official of the organization, said.
“Our job is to explore and discover not to exploit the mineral resources after the enforcement of new mineral policy,” he said.
He said the biggest hurdle to bring this wealth to the market is poor road infrastructure and the improvement of which must be prime focus of the government.
He also regretted that there is no regulatory body in AJK after the devolution of powers from federal to local authorities to attract private investment in this sector despite a huge potential.
“We have discovered a new site at Khoirata in Kotli district having millions of tons deposits of Pozolana stone (natural cement) from where, the government can earn four to five billion rupees profit through auction of the site,” Khawaja said.
More other sites like Khandi Gali, Donga Nar and Janwali have been proposed for digging where precious and semi precious stones are found while traces of gold have also been found at Bujan Wali in Grace union council of Neelum Valley, he claimed.
Apart from gem stones, industrial and marble stones, oil and gas reservoirs have also been reported from Bhimber district and Dudyal area of Kotli district which are confirmed by Marri Gas company, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and Pakistan Petroleum limited.
Indicating towards poor road infrastructure in far-flung areas where these sites are located, Khawaja said by improving only 25 kilometer road in Shounter in upper Neelum Valley, millions of tons snow white marble as good as of Ziarat in Balochistan can be extracted and the cost of the road could be recovered within five years.