LAHORE: The country’s first-ever local iron-ore steel mill to be established in Chiniot tops the list of four potential projects selected by the government from across the country for investment by Saudi Arabia, it emerged on Sunday.
It may be recalled that Pakistan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for economic cooperation in mineral resources.
The MoU was part of the several $20 billion agreements and MoUs signed on Feb 17, 2019 for different sectors, including power production, establishment of refinery, petrochemical plant, promotion of sports and technical assistance in standardisation sector, at a ceremony held at Prime Minister House on the occasion of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit.
Officials said that the four projects were picked out of a pile of proposals submitted by the provincial, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan governments at a high-level meeting held last month in Islamabad.
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The marathon meeting was presided over by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Coordination of Marketing and Development Resources Shahzad Syed Qasim and attended by 24 senior officials of the relevant federal and provincial departments.
According to a copy of the minutes of the meeting obtained by Dawn, initial attraction list of the four projects was prepared after detailed deliberations over the determining factors including resource potential, current status of each prospect and the interest elicited by the Saudi side.
The projects include establishment of a steel mill based on iron ores of Chiniot (Punjab) and Chagai (Balochistan). The Punjab Mineral Company, Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) were asked to jointly prepare a project proposal in this regard. The proposed facility would also consider use of indigenous coal.
The second item on the list is the development of Barite-Lead-Zinc project of BME in Balochistan and setting up of a processing facility/metals refinery in combination with the production of Duddar Lead-Zinc project of PMDC and MCC Huaye Duddar Mining Company of China.
Surface gasification of Thar coal is the third item on the list for which the Sindh energy department has been asked to prepare a proposal.
The last item is the exploration and development of metallic mineral resources of Chagai district, other than Reko Diq and Saindak. The Balochistan mines and mineral development department will provide the concept paper on the desired lines clearly delineating the proposed area and modus operandi.
The chair emphasised early action by the provincial governments and other organisations concerned on these projects, asking them to share the comprehensive presentations with the petroleum division on a priority basis for onward presentation to the Saudi side.
Sources said that the initial four projects were selected on the basis of opportunities, description and location, geology, ore types, mines reserves (probable and proven), expected life of mines, hydrology, road access, communications, electrical grid connectivity, environment (rainfall, temperature, disturbance etc) royalties, taxes and other levies (federal and provincial), target markets and potential customers (local, regional and international), investment size and expected return, possible structure of project, opportunity, federal and provincial laws (mining, relevant labour, land use, access rights and concessions).
It was decided that all other projects would also be selected for the Saudi investment on the basis of the same standards.
The sources said a follow-up visit of a Saudi delegation to Pakistan was expected shortly for identification of the areas of possible cooperation. They said the ministry of energy, industry and mineral resources of Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan to provide maximum possible technical, financial and infrastructure details about potential projects in the mining sectors for information of the Saudi private sector entities.
They said the provincial departments concerned and the public sector entities were accordingly requested to furnish the project proposals and investment opportunities.
The meeting was arranged to discuss and finalise the potential projects for presentation to the Saudi delegation.
According to its minutes, the chairman of the PMDC board of directors informed the participants in the meeting about the well-demonstrated mining and processing expertise of Ma’aden (a Saudi government-owned mining company) in the metallic minerals sector and its capability to support such large-scale ventures in Pakistan as well.
They were informed that the actual beneficiaries of the Saudi investment would be the provincial governments and in view of their constitutional mandate, they should prepare comprehensive proposals at international standards to attract and avail this opportunity for development of the mineral sector. The chair offered his personal assistance in this regard from the federal level.