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KARACHI: Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair said on Friday that Pakistan for the first time is going to use Thar coal for power generation, as a single unit of 660 megawatts (2x330MW), expected to start supplying power to the national grid from next year.

Speaking at an interactive session held by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) at the Governor House, he said there is going to be a combined investment of $4.5 billion, which is not restricted to only coal mining, but about transforming the entire landscape of the area.

He said that Thar, being amongst the poorest and most neglected parts of the country, will hopefully be transformed through this economic activity.

Engro Powergen CEO Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, speaking on the occasion said that Thar coal excavation work has been completed up to 114 metres, and the balance of 26 metres would be completed by October 2018. Thereafter, the first unit of 660MW will start generating power by December 2018. The original completion period of the project, he said, is 42 months, but it is hoped it would be completed in 38 months.

Mr Shaikh said that the combined investment in coal mining and power projects stands at around $2bn, with $845 million for mining, and around $1.1bn for power project.

Thar coal’s feasibility report was approved, but when Engro took the project, there was a sudden fall in the world commodity prices including coal, owing to which, at one stage, Engro almost faced bankruptcy, Mr Shaikh recalled.

“However, after the ground-breaking in April 2016, there was no looking back. Work progressed ahead of schedules and today we proudly announce that the first-ever power generating unit fueled by indigenous coal of Thar will be operational next year,” he said.

He optimistically added that Thar has the potential to transform Pakistan in fulfilling its energy needs at a very cheap rate.

Mr Shaikh lauded the role and assistance extended by both provincial and federal governments in bringing their dream project to life.

Responding to a question, he said it is a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and has the potential to export energy to India, which has almost exhausted its coal reserves running in the same belt of Thar on their side.

In response to this, the governor said there is always economic loss for not doing business with our neighbours and the time is right to initiate talks with India for coal and power supply.

“All the industrial states of India, bordering Pakistan are energy-deficient and in bad need of cheap, sustainable power supply,” he added.

Shamsuddin Ahmed Sheikh said the Engro ensured to engage Thar’s local people, recognising the fact that first right over resources vests with indigenous people.

The company has also opened schools, health clinics and launched housing schemes in the area.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2017