Time  ripe to explore Pakistan’s marble hidden treasures for economic growth, generation of employment opportunities

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By Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Dec 27 (APP):Blessed with a variety of rare and precious marble and mineral resources, Pakistan stands out as a unique country, which offers immense opportunities for domestic and international investors to earn maximum returns on their investments in this vital sector in the wake of multibillion dollars CPEC investment.

Pakistan’s western belt including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, erstwhile FATA and Balochistan besides major areas of Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, parts of Sindh and Punjab have plenty of marble deposits including Granite, Chromite, Dolomite, Manganese, Nephrite, Feldspar, Ziyarat, Limestones, Silica Sand, Quartz, Coal and Emerald.

This huge variety of marble is a great opportunities for investors to explore in the pursuit of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government investor friendly economic and industrial policies which give upward boost to industrialization, SMEs, trade and mineral sectors despite COVID-19 pandemic.

Entire erstwhile FATA especially Bajaur, Khyber and Mohmand, KP’s Malakand division mostly Buner, Shangla and Swat districts and Khuzdar, Loralai, Mastung, Dal Badin and other western districts of Balochistan bordering with Afghanistan, are naturally rich in world class marble, granite and others mineral resources and investment in this profit-oriented sector would help create employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people besides taking the country’s industrial and economic growth to a new heights.

 Muhammad Bilal, Manager Marketing and Planning, Pakistan Stones Devolopment Company (PASDEC), Ministry of Industries and Production, Islamabad told APP that western belt of Pakistan including Khaber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan  exclusively was naturally blessed with marble reserviors  where about 2,000 processing units and 1,200 marble and mines quarries were producing quality marble on small and large scale besides providing direct and indirect employment to over 200,000 labourers and other work force. .

He said over 70pc marble quarries and processing units existed in KP mostly in Bajaur, Mohmand, Swat, Buner and Shangla districts to cater the pressing demands of the growing construction industry.

Peshawar is a hub of precious Ziyarat, he said adding, a variety of marble is being exported to these places. It was transported mostly from Mohmand district where hundreds of marble shops were opened on Warsak Road and Interior City, attracting domestic and international investors besides providing jobs to over 50,000 people.

“Definitely, the demand of marble tiles will grow upward in all provinces of Pakistan in  line with PM Naya Pakistan Housing Programme (NPHP) and CPEC projects and we need to quickly shift our approach towards mechanized mining to cater the growing demands of construction industry”, Bilal said.

International investors were considering Pakistan as a future hub for trade and industrialization after the start of full fledged operation of Gwadar seaport, completion of ML-I, Khyber Pass Communication Corridor from Peshawar to Torkham Pak-Afghan border and Rashakai Special Economic Zone at Nowshera.

Bilal said, “our marble  tiles were being preferred in most international markets including China, EU, Central Asian Republic (CARs), Middle East, Afghanistan, US, SAARC and other countries due to its durability, shiness and designs.”

“The demand for Ziyarat marble of Mohmand district has increased manifolds due to an upward boom in construction industry in the last few years, forcing contractors to hire additional minors to meet the demanding orders of people and real estates despite COVID 19”, he informed.

KP Board of Investment and Trade (KP-BOI) statistics revealed that over 845 million tons (MT) of high quality marble deposits exist in super white, grey, and silky colours including 537MT Silica Sand, 11MT Dolomite, 1.8 MT Manganese, one MT Chromite in Mohmand district that awaiting investors.

Faud Ishaq, former President Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) said marble sector was a leading contributor in Gross Domestic Product and its role in the country’s economic growth could not be overlooked.

“Most processing units are preparing marble by using local manmade cutting machines, which are consuming high electricity, resulting in an increase in production cost and shortfall in its productivity.” 

A substantial quantity of precious marble worth millions of rupees was being wasted and became out of shape due to blasting every year and government patronage was required to facilitate mechanized mining to avoid waste of the precious resource and loss of revenue, he said.

Faud Ishaq said most modern SEZs in developed countries employ advanced technologies like robots, artificial intelligence, 3D printing. “Special courses in our polytechnic educational institutes may be introduced for training of students to take full advantage of CPEC projects,he added.

Former SCCI Chief suggested complete ban on blasting during marble excavation, exemption of marble units from load shedding and provision of financial incentives to the mining sector besides relaxation in federal excise duties and taxes necessary for import of machinery to encourage mechanized mining in Pakistan.

Javed Khattak, Project Director, KP Economic Zone Development and Management Company (KPEZDMC), Govt of KP told APP that marble, mineral and granite potential of KP was being fully tapped by establishing new economic zones, allocation of special quota for marble and minerals sectors in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) under CPEC, strengthening of infrastructure, training of miners and completion of ongoing development projects for economic and industrial growth besides creation of jobs opportunities for youth.

Mohmand Marble City’s (MMC), a flagship project of the government, is being constructed on 350 acres land to bolster marble sector besides generating employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of labourers and others workforce, he said, adding major part of MMC was completed where 35 industrial units have already started marble’s production.

He said Zone-1 of MMC was completed where plots to industrial marble units were allocated on merit.

Javed Khattak said two other zones at MMC were being constructed on 190 acres of land for which 700 applications from investors were received. He said important utilities including electricity and gas were provided to MMC besides linking it with Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway through enhanced roads infrastructure and railways network.

“MMC is exclusively designed for development of the marble sector and efforts are being made to include it in CPEC,” he said, adding it was one of the other nine proposed priorities Special Economic Zones (SEZ) projects under CPEC.

He said almost 50pc industries were marble based in KP which were being encouraged to generate employment opportunities for youth and to alleviate poverty.

In addition to promoting SMEs and infant industries, he said MMC was going to generate direct and indirect employment opportunities to over 50,000 labourers and miners besides making a positive impact on construction industries and boosting the country’s trade with SAARC, Central Asian Republics (CARs), Afghanistan, China, EU and US.

Project Director said Marble City on 126 acres of land was being constructed in Buner district where around 200 marble and allied industrial units would be established under the concept of clusterization that would provide jobs to over 25,000 people.

Khattak said the gigantic Rashaki Special Economic Zone (RSEZ) on 1,000 acres land in Nowshera district on Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway was ready for groundbreaking.

He said 1,700 applications were received from domestic and foreign investors including 700 from overseas Pakistanis for investment in RashakaiSpecial Economic Zone (RSEZ) where 10 to 20percent portion would be allocated for marble and mines units to increase volume of trade with Afghanistan, CARs, Gulf and China.

Project Director said Nowshera Economic Extension Project was being constructed on 76 acres of land where about 70 percent area would be allocated for marble units, adding, this project after completion would generate employment opportunities for around 20,000 labourers.

Javed Khattak said  Pakistan has all the potential to increase its revenue by promoting the marble sector through provision of incentives, relief in federal excise duties and taxes on import of equipment and machinery to promote mechanized mining.

Marble City in Risalpur was already established with assistance of PASDEC where about 28 marble units have started production.

Karim Khan, Special Assistant to CM KP for Industries said the KP government was promoting the marble sector through construction of economic zones, providing loans to youth on easy terms and conditions, training to miners, strengthening of infrastructure besides promoting ease of doing business.

He said  work on new economic zones and industrial projects including Jalozai Economic Zone, Extension of Nowshera Economic Zone and remaining work on MMC were accelerated to bolster marble exports, trade and other businesses.

He said Chief Minister KP has recently performed ground-breaking of mega Nowshera Economic Zone Extension Project  where a substantial area would be allocated for marble units.