Pakistan’s Marble and Mineral sector holds immense potential for growth and development, boasting untapped reserves of precious metals, base metals, and Rare Earth Elements (REEs). To harness this potential, Muhammad Yaqub Shah, a mineral sector expert, emphasizes the need for Pakistan to draw inspiration from China, a global leader in the mining industry.
By embracing China’s mining model and advanced value-addition techniques, Pakistan can revolutionize its Marble sector, creating job opportunities and driving economic growth across regions like Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan.
China’s mining prowess is evident in its substantial contributions to global gold and copper production. In 2022, China accounted for 10% of global gold production and a remarkable 43.3% of refined copper production, with ongoing growth projections. To achieve similar success, Pakistan aims to establish mining and value-addition units, extending this transformation to industries such as food processing, electricity generation, and construction, which rely on a steady supply of raw materials.
Currently, Pakistan operates around 5,000 mines, employing 30,000 individuals, with an additional 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises connected to the sector. To enhance productivity and economic viability, the adoption of modern exploration techniques and mechanized mining, inspired by China, is imperative for Pakistan’s mineral sector.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s marble industry offers a lucrative avenue for economic growth. As the sixth-largest producer of marble and granite globally, with vast reserves exceeding 350 million tons and 64 different varieties, the country has the potential to earn billions of dollars from marble product exports. However, several challenges hinder its progress.
Moazzam Ghurki, leader of the Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI), stresses the need for collaboration between the government and private sector to address these challenges. These issues include outdated mining methods, high electricity costs, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of modern machinery. Fang Yulong, also part of PCJCCI, suggests allowing duty-free machinery imports to enhance efficiency, reduce waste, and boost exports.
Pakistan’s marble industry could benefit from financial support for marble exporters to participate in global trade fairs, soft loans for investors to acquire modern machinery, and the establishment of training centers for a skilled workforce. Collaboration with China is also a promising avenue for the growth of this sector.
Regrettably, the 2023-24 budget allocated little to no attention to the mining industry, leaving over 200,000 individuals employed in the sector without government support. Despite Pakistan’s ability to export 53 varieties of stones, mainly in their raw form, no allocation has been made for sector development. Experts argue that investing in the mines and mineral sector can help address trade deficits by promoting local production and increasing exports, following the examples of Italy, Greece, and China.
To unlock Pakistan’s marble industry’s full potential, experts recommend strengthening resources and training through institutions like the Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC). By encouraging processing and value addition instead of exporting raw materials, Pakistan can significantly boost its foreign exchange revenues. Additionally, the government’s support in providing machinery and training to the mining sector can help reduce losses and increase foreign exchange earnings.
In conclusion, Pakistan’s mineral and marble sectors hold immense potential for growth and economic development. Emulating China’s successful mining model and addressing industry challenges are crucial steps toward unlocking this potential and realizing the economic benefits for the country.