By Fakhar Alam
PESHSAWAR, Jan 18 (APP): Other than unique geographical location and mountainous beauty of the minerals rich Hindukash, Karakorum, Himalaya and Balochistan ranges, the tribal regions of Pakistan are also known for their distinctive variety and exquisite quality of natural resources.
The region comprising newly merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is blessed with a variety of rare and precious marble reservoirs including Granite, Chromite, Manganese, Mephrite, Feldspare, Ziarat, Limestones, Silca Sand, Quartz, Dolomite, Epidote, Sphene, Emerald and Soapstone.
These rich marble reserves offer unique opportunities for domestic and international investors to earn maximum returns on their investment owing to better connectivity in presence of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
‘Integrated Districts Development Plan (IDDP) study conducted last year on marble deposits in the merged districts, revealed the presence of over 14,700 MT marble in four districts including 8,450 MT in Mohmand, 5,850 MT in Bajaur, 345 MT in Khyber and 65MT in Kurram.
“Naturally, the entire tribal districts are rich in reserves with a potential of producing about 60,000 million tons (MT) marble,” said Tariq Waheed, senior Geologist of Mines and Mineral Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Tariq said, there are millions of tones of Granite, Manganese, Chromite, Copper, Nephrite, Jadeite, Serpentinite, Garnet, Epidote, Ationolite, Tourmaline, Idocrase, Grossular, Emerald, Silca Sand, Dolmite, Quartez, Feldspare, Axinite, Sphene, Laterite, Barite, Graphite, Soaptone, Fluroite, Diamond, Limstone, coal, Iron ore, Sandstone, Black Limestone; Lead, Agate, Gold, Silver, Nickel and Marble in the merged districts of tribal region.
“Marble is one of these precious minerals and the KP government is fully focusing on its exploration by introducing modern techniques for major economic boost in the province,” Tariq said. “Marble produced in this region has great demand within the country and abroad.”
Shabir Ali, a miner on Warsak Road Peshawar said, Ziarat super white marble of Mohmand district is liked much due its durability, shine and coldness in summer. “It is a profitable business and any person having basic knowhow can start it initially by investing Rs 1.5 million and can earn Rs two million a year.”
Just to start with, he said, an investor needs three machines for cutting the raw marble, its sizing and then polishing. This would cost him Rs 170,000, Rs 130,000 and Rs 150,000 for each machine respectively.
“This business has flourished substantially during last couple of years due to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan Housing Program,” he said Seeing from other angle, it is a common market phenomenon that prices show upward trend when demand of a commodity increases. The same happened with marble as commuters were seen complaining of high prices.
“The prices of marble are very high that need to be regulated by the government. It seems like double profiting meaning that higher prices and bulk sale,” said Gulzar Khan, a resident of Pabbi.
“It is seen world over that when there is bulk sale, the price is reduced. But, we do otherwise and increase prices when there is bulk demand. So, we direly need a pricing mechanism,” he added.
Riaz Khan, member Frontier Mines Owners Association said that about 600 marble units were operating on Warsak Road and this industry employs around one million people, directly or indirectly.
“We produce quality marble and our Ziarat white is also exported to Gulf and SAARC countries, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other countries due to its durability, colorful designs and all weather qualities.
He however mentioned to wastage of this resource due to traditional modes of exploration and use of local machinery. “This precious wealth can be saved if the industry is extended technical and financial support in adaptation of modern techniques.”
When asked, Raja Tariq, Senior Planning Officer, Mines and Mineral Department informed about four under process projects including Rs 109 million ‘exploration of decorative stones’ project in Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber; Rs 149.290 million project for exploration of metallic minerals including gold, silver, manganese, iron and chromite, development of rare metallic mines, coal, marbles, platinum, silver and gold reservoirs in Orakzai; and Rs142 million and Rs198.030 million projects for strengthening Project Management Unit (PMU).
He also mentioned to three projects including infrastructure development of clusters of mining costing Rs 4500 million, establishment of mineral check-posts costing Rs 800 million and establishment of Mines Safety and Mechanized Mining Centres costing Rs 3500 million proposed for fiscal year 2022-23.
“These projects would focus on solarization of mines, construction of access roads, prevention of illegal mining, training of new miners, international trading and attracting investors besides creating jobs,” he said.
Project Director, KP Economic Zones Development and Management Company, Javed Khattak, said Mohmand Marble City (MMC) is being constructed on 350 acres land to fully tap the marble potential. Its major part has been completed with 45 industrial units starting production, generating around 500,000 jobs.
“Marble City’ is also being constructed in Buner district to set up over 200 marble and allied industrial units under clusterization concept. This project is hoped to create 25,000 jobs,” Khattak said. About 28 units have started production in Marble City Risalpur while 20 and 70 percent portions of Rashakai and Nowshera SEZ respectively have been earmarked for marble and mines units.”
Meanwhile, Abdul Karim Khan, Special Assistant to the KP Chief Minister reiterated the government’s resolve to promote marble industry by constructing new economic zones, providing loans under Kamyab Jawan Program, training miners and encouraging ease of doing business. “Work on Jalozai and Rashakai economic zones and MMC has been accelerated to bolster marble exports.”
He said Rs 10 million would be utilized on relocation of marble units of Warsak Road to the nearest industrial zones; Rs 837 on allocation of 100 acres land for Buner marble city and Rs 200 million for acquisition of Salt and Gypsum City in Karak.