ISLAMABAD, Feb 27: Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) has asked the government to use 110 sq. kilometre of one of its underground salt mines for keeping country’s strategic oil reserves or for other defence purposes.
“This is impervious and the best for oil storage. It is a sealer for oil and does not allow it to migrate,” said a team of geologists and mining engineers from the state-run PMDC that believed the rock salt mines were also the best for nuclear waste.
The PMDC had arranged a visit of a group of journalists to Khewra near Chakwal in Punjab where the world’s second largest salt mine is located.
Pakistan has been looking for enhancing strategic oil reserves for up to 90 days consumption but lack of investment has been a major hurdle to build new storages.
The Khewra salt mines are being excavated since 320 B.C and around 110 sq. km under ground area could not be utilised for oil storage, said the PMDC team comprising deputy chief geologist Muzaffar Hussain, chief mining engineer M. Saifullah Qureshi and mining engineer Maqbool Mazari.
They said that PMDC had submitted a summary to the federal government that the excavated mine should be utilized for oil storage because it was one of the most ideal locations for onward transportation to upcountry and Azad Kashmir.
The government was also told that the defence authorities should also be informed about the underground space to examine whether it could be used for some other defence purposes. Asked as to how much oil could be stored there, the PMDC officials said the area was sufficient to shelter entire population of Lahore.
The PMDC has already started developing the site as a tourist resort by setting up a restaurant and other tourist attractions there. A hotel was in the process of construction to provide residential facilities to the tourists and visitors.
The PMDC officials said that Khewra salt mine had proven reserves of 300 million tons. This reserve could not be consumed in 600 years even at the rate of 5 lakh tons production every day. Current production from the mine was around 3 lakh tons.
The officials said the mine had 17 storey and 11 of them were below the ground floor. The salt-mine is 945 feet from the sea level and went around 2,400 feet inside the earth from the mine-mouth.
The site has a geological importance as well because it is estimated that 2 million year old structures have been found where the PMDC has constructed one of the world’s most beautiful mosques with three-coloured salt bricks.
The officials said that within a year of development over 2,000 visitors have started coming to the site because of its unique tourist attracts notwithstanding the fact that Khewra was still an unknown area. The mine earned Rs1.2 million this year through its tourist activity alone.