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 Thar coal reserves termed ‘Game Changer’ by energy experts

Thar coal could be a game changer for Pakistan’s energy needs if exploited efficiently. The incompetency, corruption and lack of interest at the power corridors however are the major hurdles in the realization of this invaluable potential.

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This was the gist of the seminar ‘Coal: From Thar to Gadani’, held at the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad on Wednesday, December 03, 2014 . The event was chaired by Usman Aminuddin, former Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources while Mirza Talib Hassan, former Director General, Geological Survey of Pakistan was the keynote speaker. The other discussants included Ashfaq Mehmood, former Secretary, Ministry of Water and Power, Mirza Hamid Hasan, former Secretary, Ministry of Water and Power, DG-IPS Khalid Rahman and Sr. IPS associate Ameena Sohail.

The experts rued that various assessments and projections of Thar coal development have termed its potential from highly optimistic to below-pessimistic, putting the realistic picture of its prospects in ambiguity.

The speakers lamented that unfortunately Thar coal development has not been carried out under an integrated Master Plan of Thar coal basin spreading over an area of around 9000 sq. km, They stressed on adopting a holistic approach where all aspects of geology, e.g. coal exploration, various mining options, infrastructure development, availability and condition of surface and ground water and the requirement of electricity should be incorporated.

Mirza Talib Hassan was of the view that the potential and efficiency of Thar coal has been debated for over three decades and yet no concrete measures were taken to exploit the resource. He viewed that it was already very late to take the action and any further ‘over-study’ will only hurt the cause. He urged the government to start the drilling and exploration projects immediately on the basis of readily available studies, while carrying out the evaluation processes alongside.

Ashfaq Mahmood, too, advised not to waste any further time on experiments and studies, stressing upon bringing first class mining facilities in Pakistan on urgent basis, be it through the private investments. He also suggested launching of a full-fledged public sector project with assistance of Asian Development Bank. The capacity building of local resource, according to him, was also mandatory for long-term sustainability.

Usman Aminuddin stated that on certain occasions in the last 20 years, some serious work on Thar coal was started, but vested interests, lack of intent from authorities and the bureaucratic red tape came in way and halted the progress.

DG-IPS Khalid Rahman agreed with Aminuddin on the matter, pointing that there is no shortage of ideas, resources or technology, but it’s the lack of intent by authorities that is depriving Pakistan from utilizing such invaluable indigenous resources.

 
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