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Projects under CPEC could support mineral developments in some sectors, US professor says. — File
Projects under CPEC could support mineral developments in some sectors, US professor says. — File

ISLAMABAD: Although minerals, including gemstones, have great potential to contribute to Pakistan’s economy, the lack of real data on minerals in the country is one of the fundamental challenges to the sector’s growth, Prof Saleem H. Ali from the University of Delaware said on Tuesday.

Mr Ali, the professor of energy and environment at the University of Delaware in the United States, cautioned that only a careful and practical approach, along with an elaborated strategy, was the key to tapping into the sector.

Mr Ali was delivering a lecture on ‘How Can Minerals Contribute to Pakistan’s Development Path?’ at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

Projects under CPEC could support mineral developments in some sectors, US professor says

Referring to the case of Reko Diq gold and copper reserves in Balochistan, he said these mines still offer tremendous opportunities but the right planning and the proper use of technology and expertise is important to benefit from this national wealth.

“The dilemma with any mineral rich country was that such resources offer positive as well as negative impacts,” he said, adding that the rational use of such resources needs a highly thoughtful approach to harness this potential.

Mr Ali highlighted that a detailed formulation of rules and procedure was needed to define the incentives, programmes and capacities related to mineral development projects, or operational consequences could arise after the start of exploration activity.

“To reach at a workable policy and get benefits from minerals in Pakistan several legal requirements are needed, which includes upfront tax incentives, pace of extraction following price or planning for scarcity etc.” He added: “Likewise, the integrity of the environment over the long term and economic viability of the operations must remain core areas of concern.”

He also spoke about the benefits of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, saying it would support mineral developments in some sectors, such as the cement industry, while the importance of energy minerals such as coal would also increase.

He said there is also “huge potential for Pakistan to be tapped in the gemstone industry”, adding that Pakistani gemstones are high grade items in commercial foreign jewellery markets.

SDPI’s Dr Imran Khalid earlier explained the importance of the contribution of minerals to the national economy. He said although opinions about the potential and capacity of this sector in Pakistan are diverse, the importance of the sector to the economy could not be ignored.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017