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KARACHI, May 14: Federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Saturday assured the Thar Coal Energy Board (TCEB) that the federal government would provide all possible assistance and funding for infrastructure development for the Thar coalfields.

He gave this assurance at a meeting of the TCEB chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.

The board was given a presentation by the convener of the evaluation committee regarding international competitive bidding for Thar coal blocks, Zubair Motiwala, who explained the evaluation process and highlighted the proposals of the companies.

In view of their financial strength, mining capabilities and project timelines, the board, on the basis of recommendations of the committee, allocated the blocks offered for bidding to various local and international bidding companies.

The meeting was also given an update on infrastructure development projects that included a water supply scheme of Makhi-Farash, transmission network, railway link, effluent disposal, etc.

The work done by the consultants was appreciated and the board observed that as this issue would have a long-term financial impact for Sindh, more due diligence was required by technical experts. Accordingly, a technical committee was constituted. The committee would comprise of representatives from the finance division, the water and power ministry, the Sindh finance department, an international expert and the managing director of the TCEB.

The meeting was attended by federal ministers Hafeez Shaikh, Naveed Qamar, provincial ministers Jam Mehtab Dahar, Jam Saifullah Dharejo, Syed Murad Ali Shah and Chief Minister's Adviser Zubair Motiwala.

According to official sources, the chief minister emphasised that the development of Thar coal was the central policy agenda of the government and indigenous resources could resolve the chronic energy problems of Pakistan for the next 100 years.

He noted that significant work had been done on institutional and regulatory framework. A fiscal incentives package for indigenous coal-based projects had also been approved, he said.

In October 2009, the Sindh government had set up a joint venture company — the Sindh Engro Mining Company —on a 40:60 ratio for exploration in Block 2 of the Thar area. This was done through international competitive bidding. The bankable feasibility has been completed, which established the technical, financial and environmental feasibility of the Thar coal project.

The company planned to develop an open pit mine of 6.5 million tonnes per annum capacity initially which would be scaled up to 22.5 million tonnes per annum subsequently. Power generation would be carried out by Engro Power Gen.

Initially, 1,200 megawatts would be generated and it would be raised to 4,000 MW. The first megawatt of electricity from Thar would begin to flow into the national grid in 2015-2016.

A licence had also been granted to Dr Samar Mubarakmand for an experimental project on gasification of coal.

The meeting also discussed some key infrastructure projects that included a water supply scheme for Thar coalfields, a 296-kilometre-long road from Karachi to Islamkot via Thatta, an airport at Islamkot with an estimated cost of Rs972 million.

The CM said that the government was working on multiple fronts to facilitate results on account of Thar coal, which could usher prosperity and development to the region and the whole country.