Author Topic: MINING IN BALOCHISTAN  (Read 6014 times)

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Offline Zahida Raees Raji

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« on: January 05, 2009, 03:53:06 PM »
Mahmood Siddiqui & Uzma Mahmood

Current mining activity for metallic and nonmetallic minerals at several places in Balochistan and production of natural gas from different gas reserves in Sui area are enough to uphold the claim that the province is fairly good at her mineral resources. The assertion is further strengthened by new discoveries of precious metal prospects in Chagai district and of sizeable gas reserves by M/s Premier Oil and Shell Pakistan in Zarghoon area some 60 km northeast and 40 km east of Quetta town. With ongoing exploratory work in the province a few more world-class noble and base metal deposits and oil and gas reserves are expected to be surfaced in near future.

International Mining Companies
Present trend in the international mining industry is to avail all possible opportunities of exploration and mining on foreign lands—particularly in the developing countries. Reasons for these preferences are briefly outlined below:

§          There is now little hope if any, to find new mineral / hydrocarbon prospects in developed countries. Most of mineral potentials of advance nations that existed within extractable limits have already been discovered and in most cases the reserves are near exhaustion due to excessive exploitation. On the other hand, the developing countries offer virgin lands where vast scope of rich mineral finds does exist.

§          Some developed countries are desirous of keeping some of their mineral wealth, particularly the strategic minerals, like radioactive minerals, petroleum etc. reserved for future use.  Such countries, in spite of having vast reserves of these minerals on their own lands, meet a good part of their demand by import.

§          In developed countries, the competition among the rival companies is very tough and most of the international companies now look for exploitation opportunities in the developing countries.

§          Exploration and mining cost in developing countries is on much lower side as compared to those in developed countries. Investment on exploration on mining industries, therefore, made in such countries is expected to bring back higher profits.

§          International mining companies are desirous of having monopoly on the international mineral markets so that they may be able to have control on the price of various mineral commodities.  For this reason, these companies want to get hold of as many mining properties as possible all over the world.

         Pakistan may avail benefits of this foreign mining industry trend and get thorough exploration done on her land by the mineral and hydrocarbon exploration companies with extensive experience in the field. Some of such companies, however, often may have motives other than just exploration on foreign lands. These are often planted on the host country's soil with political and strategic motives. Pakistan, therefore, must have a careful watch on undesirable activity if any, and take appropriate action if such an activity is detected.

In the past seemingly due to lack of co-ordination amongst the Government Departments often rather repulsive attitude has been shown in certain cases.  Under the Petroleum Policy, for instance, the equipment imported for the purposes of exploration were declared to be exempt of all kinds of duties. Despite this, an amount of Rs. 4.8 billion, according to the daily Dawn Karachi (Feb 28, 1999), was recovered from multinational oil and gas companies in the name custom duty, regulatory duty, sales tax, flood relief fund and other taxes at the time of the actual import of the machinery. For sustainable development of the province and the country and long-term future benefits of the nation, the multinational and also the national petroleum and mining companies may be attracted through lucrative incentives to make more and more investments.

 Highly disturbed and wobbly economy, prevailing dubious security conditions, frequent political turmoil, lack of uniform mineral exploration and mining policies / regulations, and scarcity of transparency in working of the concerned government departments are some of the main factors that have kept foreign investors away from making substantial investment in mineral sector of the country. Instances, however, exist when continuation of exploratory work of some of the foreign companies in the province was disrupted and threatened to be discontinued. Such issues must be resolved at the highest levels without further loss of time. In this state of affairs, when Pakistan is so close to success in the mineral sector, discontinuation of exploration in the province shall be very unfortunate. Security of personnel and property and the investment made in the exploration projects must be ensured if the progress in development is to be kept continued.

Domestic Mining Companies
One of the objectives of the mineral sector in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, is to achieve fast and sustainable development in the petroleum exploration and mining industries. Establishment of mineral-based industries within the province will facilitate fast consumption of the mining products and so encourage the mining activities. Development of these industries will create new job opportunities in the public and private sectors and to some extent help alleviate the joblessness and poverty problems particularly in the remote areas of the province. It is expected of the federal and provincial governments both, to remove the hurdles and bottlenecks in the way of development and offer maximum possible incentives to these industries so that they could stabilize and grow. Some of the serious issues confronting the domestic mining industry, particularly in Balochistan, are listed below.  These issues are to be addressed seriously and on priority basis if the mining industry of the province is to be developed to international standard.

1. Non-Serious Leaseholders
Many prospecting and mining leaseholders are not serious in the trade and as a result a number of leases are non-productive, which is against the national interest. Several coal-mining leases in the province are suffering from such inactivity.

2. Sub-Letting Lease
Some mining leaseholders sub-let the allotted lease on contract mining and the contractor, with passage of time, becomes de-facto owner of the lease. This often creates legal problems and sometimes the mining activity on the lease is closed for indefinite period of time. Several chromite mines at Muslimbagh are facing such problems.

3. Informal Mining
In some mineral areas, informal mining, i.e., mining of mineral commodities without obtaining proper lease is practised. This deprives the government of the Prospecting Licence, Mining Lease fees, royalty and other tariffs on one hand and cause loss to the formal mining leaseholders of the area on the other. Some chromite mining in Muslimbagh area and coal mines in a few remote areas is under informal mining practice.

4. Allotment of Short Lease Areas
Allotment of minimal lease area is fixed for each mineral but quite sometimes the regulation is over-looked and short leases are allotted, particularly in case of coal. Too many coal mine-owners have resultantly cropped out though only a few have developed their mines to the desired standard. Most of these small leaseholders practise shallow mining leaving major part of coal in deeper depths. This kind of mining not only causes permanent loss of the precious mineral fuel but also does very serious, often irreparable, damage to the mine itself.

5. Infrastructure Facilities & Utilities
Government department and organisations concerning the mining industries have one most important mandate, i.e., to facilitate the leaseholders do their jobs. Provision of all possible supports including technical, advisory and legal, and the infrastructure facilities and utilities within the prescribed framework, is the right of leaseholders.

6. Marketing Mining Products
Mining industries face considerable set back when the mine products do not find appropriate domestic or foreign market.  In such cases the government in consultation with the mine-owners should arrange utilisation of the product within the province by encouraging establishment of mineral-based industries in private or the public sector through added incentives. For instance, Balochistan coal can be utilised within the province for power generation by establishing a few power plants at appropriate locations close to the coal mining centres.  An alternate use of the Balochistan coal may be its conversion to "coal gas". Such conversion was in practice in US and Germany till the end of the Second World War and is still in practice in South Africa on a substantial scale.  If this type of conversion is economically viable the Balochistan coal shall have its utility close to it origin.  Coal and other mining products, which do not have supporting mineral-based industries within the province, are to be transported to the other provinces or even exported. The government may help establish linkage with domestic industries in other provinces at government level for the consumption of the products, or arrange export to countries deficient in these products.

7. Manpower Engagement
Engagement of manpower at the mines is the right of the mine-owners.  However, training institutions are to be set-up by the government and the mine-owners may employ only those trained by these institutions, particularly at the technical jobs requiring specific mining skill, like Mining Sardars (technicians who have extensive practical mining experience rather than formal education). Instances exist where untrained persons have asserted political pressures to acquire such jobs that offer attractive salaries and facilities. Government is to ensure negation of such pressures, not only in mining industry but in other trades as well.

8. Middlemen's Profit
Coal mine-owners often suffer great losses due to the inappropriate ratio of the middlemen profit during odd seasons. Rationalisation of the middlemen profit as well as fixing the higher and lower price limits of the fluctuating and cyclic behaviour of this mineral commodity is essential.  Coal prices need to be fixed with mutual consent of the mine-owner and the middlemen.

9. Linkage with International Initiatives
Participation of the mining personnel in international mining conferences, seminars and workshops etc., to bridge the gap between advanced and indigenous mining technologies is essential. Such conferences can be arranged with the help of foreign linkage and international initiatives at the government levels
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Offline Zahida Raees Raji

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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2009, 03:54:53 PM »
10. Adoption of Advanced Mining Technology
Adoption of developed mining technology and sophisticated mining equipment at the mining sites is the mine-owners outlook. Government departments and organisations are to offer their advice to the mine-owners but the decision to accept the advice rests on the latter.  In fact, people involved in the trade for quite sometimes know as to what are the potentials of their mines and up to what extent further investment will be feasible. Adoption of advanced and developed mining technologies and use of sophisticated and costly mining machinery and equipment depends heavily on the quality and quantity of the minerals being mined and is not justifiable in all the cases.

11. Mine Safety
(i) Safety against Accidents
Mining in general is a hazardous profession and those who enter in the field are exposed to high degree of risk against health, injuries and even to the life. Coal mining in particular, is yet more risky and calls for adoption of failsafe precautionary and foolproof security measures with no room for carelessness. Negligence may be on the part of the management or the workers, it is the worker who almost always suffers the physical injuries or loss of life.
On an average 50 to 60 fatal accidents take place on different mining sites in Balochistan every year. Study of past 10-year accidents record indicate that these mishaps cause about 56 casualties, 35 serious injuries, and 45 moderate to minor injuries per annum.  Major mine accidents are usually caused due to one or more of the following factors:
§          Injury due to slip and fall of workers on uneven surface particularly in dark underground areas.

§          Injury during haulage and transportation of the mining materials.

§          Injury due to improper use of hand tools and machinery.

§          Injury by moving machines and during transportation.

§          Injury by coming in contact with live electric wires.

§          Injury due to fall of the roof and collapse of the face or the sides of the mine workings.

§          Injury due to ignoring the precautionary measures and improper use of explosives.

In the case of coal mines, in addition to the above, serious mine accident may result due to:

§          Accumulation of coal dust and methane in work area may cause explosion.

§          Accumulation of carbon monoxide in work area, which may cause toxaemia.

§          Accumulation of carbon dioxide or lack of oxygen in work area, which may cause suffocation.

§          Fire within and outside the mine.


Proper training of the underground mining staff, intelligent use of safety equipment, careful utilisation of machinery, tools and explosives could have avoided many of the accidents in the past.  Adequate ventilation of the mine shaft, adit (horizontal tunnel) and incline, etc., vigilant pre-shift inspection of the mine and strict abidance and adherence to the mine safety regulations would considerably reduce chances of the mishaps.

Precautionary and security measures taken at every mine must be satisfying for and have approval of the miners who are the most vulnerable to health hazard and accidents. The Mine Safety Rules contained in Mine Act 1935 are too old to be able to meet the present-day safety requirement. A well-equipped dispensary of reasonable size with qualified and trained medical and paramedical staff is necessary for every mining centre or for a few closely spaced mining centres. The medical and paramedical staff posted at these dispensaries must be specially trained to handle injury and first-aid cases.  As precautionary measure, everyone entering in a mine is made to wear helmet and safety glasses, and in case of coalmine, carry a safety light. The mines, particularly coal mines, must be fitted with automatic gas detectors and the mineshaft, adit and incline, tunnel etc., be well ventilated and frequently checked if the ventilation system is working properly. As the return ventilation airways can be used as an alternate "escape passage" during emergencies, it may be made large enough and always kept clean and illuminated for emergency use. Old and damaged timbering in mines also causes frequent accidents due to collapse of the roof and walls, timbering reinforcement, where necessary must be made and its periodic inspection insured. The Chief Inspectorate of Mines must impose heavy penalties if these security and precautionary arrangements are found below the acceptable limits at any mine.

(ii) Safety against Health Hazard
Apart from mine accidents, which may cause instant injury or death, there are also long-term occupational risk factors posing hazards to the mineworkers' health.  Such hazards include:

§          Inhalation of coal dust suspended in the coal mine atmosphere.

§          Inhalation of stone dust suspended in mine atmosphere.

§          Inhalation of minute asbestos fibres in asbestos workings.

§          Handling of poisonous, toxic and chemically reactive minerals and materials.

§          Handling of radio-active minerals and materials.

These hazards can be minimised by:

§          Reducing the dust particles in the air by proper ventilation of the mine.

§          Keeping the mine free of the settled dust particles by physical means.

§          Use of dust mask and breathing filters by the mineworker.

§          Occasional lungs radiography of the mineworkers.

§          Change of subsurface to surface duty of the affected mineworkers.

§          Use of gloves while handling poisonous, toxic and  chemically reactive minerals and materials

§          Handling of radio-active minerals and materials may be done using lead shield specially designed for this purpose.

12. Conserving the Environment
Mining operations, if left unchecked, produce severe environmental degradation. It is, therefore, necessary to make the mine-owners / stock pile holders file a detailed Environment Impact Statement (EIS) under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Environment Ordinance, 1983 at the time of planning the mining / stock piling activities.  Involvement of the stakeholders at this stage of planning the mining / stock piling activity, is necessary as they are the ones who would be most affected by these activities. Stakeholders would be required to first examine if the filed EIS is as per the norms of the EIA. Their views and comments in this regards are to be given due consideration before the final approval and go-ahead signal is given to the mine-owners / stock pile holders for their respective activities. 

The mineral and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities in the environmentally sensitive areas, like national parks, protected areas and coastal and marine environment are to be conducted yet more carefully.  All the possible efforts are to be made to keep the environment in these areas as little disturbed as possible.  A hedge of barbed wire with blinded screen is erected around the workings and as little noise made as possible, particularly in national parks and wildlife protected areas.  The working shifts are to be so arranged that the noisy part of the working could be done during day hours from sun rise to sunset and during nights as little light be used as possible. Arrangement is made to dispose the mining waste and drill cores and cuttings from the site along with their production and in no circumstances pollution of soil, water and the air be allowed. Use of explosives and dangerous and poisonous chemicals is to be avoided as far as possible. Arrangements are made to clear all sort of wastes from these sites and at the close of project, the site is fully rehabilitated in its original form - the form it was before the start of the workings.  In case of working in coastal and marine environments, special arrangements are made to avoid oil spill and contamination of the seawater with chemicals and other toxic materials.
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