Pakistan has many resources to generate its own electricity. One such resource found in enough is coal . Thanks to all the coal miners who put their lives at stake digging deep. They extract coal deposits to meet the demands of all the thermal power plants. Coal continues to be a rich source of generating heat and power.
But, there have been casualties while blasting the mines as the miners got stuck within the mines. Moving onwards, most of the miners get affected with various kinds of skin diseases. As they spend most of their time extracting coal reserves from the mines. The chemicals coming out of these extracts are quite harmful leading to many diseases.
Furthermore, most of the miners breathe contaminated air within the mines. Their lungs also get affected leading to many respiratory disorders, particularly asthma. The purpose of this article is to give an introduction to coal mining in Pakistan. and to acknowledge the endeavours. of these miners to continue an incessant supply of coal to the industrial sector of the country.
Discovery of Coal Mines in Pakistan
Pakistan was once a British Colony after. the East India Company took over the land in the name of trade and business. During the 1880s, the British forces discovered. the coal reserves in different areas of Pakistan alongside the other regions of South Asia. Until the discovery of gas in Sui and oilfield in Toot, coal was the only resource for. generating enough heat. and energy.
Total Coal Reserves in Pakistan
There are no exact statistics about the exact amount of coal reserves hidden. beneath the surface within all the reserves. The reported figure of 185 billion. tonnes subcategorized further as 3.45 billion tonnes of. measured reserves 12 billion tonnes. as indicated reserves, 57 billion tonnes of inferred. reserves and 113 billion tonnes of hypothetical reserves. Despite all these figures, the extent of geological assurance is quite. low on inferred coal reserves and the hypothetical coal reserves. The former estimated to be at a distance of 2 to 5km in depth from the point of measurement. The latter is more than 5km deep from the measuring point. According to recent facts and figures, the largest coal. reserves in Pakistan located in Sindh have an. approximate amount of 184,123 million tonnes.
The Thar desert in Sindh province remains the major area of attention for most. companies with the discovery of low ash and low sulphur lignite coal reserves. It has enhanced the local and foreign interest to consume these reserves. in localized power plants. The rest can exported to other countries help to improve foreign exchange reserves. According to a statement by Dr. Murtaza Mughal in 2007, the coal. reserves have an average worth of twenty-five trillion dollars. You can imagine the contemporary worth of these coal reserves of 185 billion tonnes.
You would have heard of the Sindh Engro. Mining Company which is a joint venture established under the. provincial government in 2009. Sindh Engro Mining Company targets Block 2 to develop an open-pit mine that. would have an extraction capacity of 6.5 million tonnes per annum. this extraction capacity upgraded to 22.5 million tonnes will improve production. These deposits would belong to Engro Power Gen to meet the power needs of the country. At the outset, Engro will generate. 1200 MW of energy which can be. boosted up to 4000 MW with the passage of time and pertinent up-gradation.
2009 proved to be a successful year as Oracle Coalfields. the company based in England, signed a memorandum of understanding with. Karachi Electric Supply Company. According to the agreement, Oracle will own the coal. mine at Thar coalfields in Sindh and would. carry out the necessary exploration, drilling, mining and coal production. Furthermore, it would also ease Pakistan in setting up a power plant fuelled by coal reserves. According to KESC, this step is. meant to become a pioneer in utilizing local coal reserves for power generation.
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Difficulties Faced by Coal Miners in Pakistan
Despite signing these good and. beneficial deals, there are occasions where our partners withdraw. from the agreement highlighting some serious points of concern that. need our attention as Pakistanis. China withdrew from an agreement of extracting coal reserves as the power tariff did. not justify the actual worth of the coal mines. Moving onwards, the World Bank also signed an agreement with the local. government of Pakistan worth 30 million dollars.
The project was. titled Thar Coal and Power Technical Help Project and would have turned. out to be a game-changer in boosting the country’s GDP and containing the fiscal deficit. But, there were many reasons as stated. by the government officials why the World Bank withdrew from the deal. Some of these reasons include a lack of government attention. to resettling the local people. Furthermore, the government does not portray these resources as pivotal for the national. security of the country. Likewise, the government never presented. these coal reserves as part of their national energy policy.
The Engro Mining Company’s project also faced some serious problems as. pointed out by the Chief Executive Officer Khalid Mansoor. He warned in one of his statements that if the provision of water and transmission lines is. procrastinated, this delay would deteriorate the 3.4 billion dollars. worth of Thar coal project. Khalid Mansoor and Ajaz Ali Khan, Thar. Coal Energy Board Managing Director, both have highlighted. to the Pakistani Premier that the delay in the grant of 10 billion. rupees is creating economic problems related to the buy of. pertinent items and paying the coal miners slowing down the entire. project due to which it will not be. finished within the decided timeframe.
They have reiterated organizing a donor conference to seek aid from. investors from the Middle East, Japan, UK, USA and China besides to the International. Finance Corporation and the World Bank. These foreign direct investments would ease expediting the ongoing work in Thar. Keeping in view all these requests, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the Finance. Minister, assured the Thar Coal Energy Board that the federal government. would provide pertinent funds to set up the requisite. infrastructure essential for Thar coalfields and mines.
The meeting included many projects including a 296 km long road connecting Karachi. to Islamkot through Thatta, a water supply chain for Thar coalfields. Moving onwards, the establishment of an airport at Islamkot worth 972. million rupees was also part of the forthcoming projects. The provincial chief minister also emphasized the completion. of Thar Coal projects at the earliest as it would meet the energy requirements. of the country for more than a hundred years. On the suggestions and recommendations of the committee, Thar Coal. Energy Board allocated many coal blocks for bidding to national. as well as international companies to start mining these reserves for energy production.
This coal is generally named Lignite. The other less sulfurous coal which is harder than Lignite. has a tar-like substance known as bitumen inside it and is thus named Bituminous coal. It is. turned into coke fuel and used to burn domestic fires. There is an intermediate category. termed sub-bituminous coal whose properties lie in the middle. of lignite and bituminous coal. This category is. used to fuel steam electric power generators. Furthermore, this coal type is. utilized for cement works in Pakistan.
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Due to unsafe working conditions, many Afghan families had to bear the casualties. of their sole breadwinner. If you ever get a chance to visit the coal mines and the circumstances within which these workers. are spending most part of their day, you can witness this scenario as an. explicit violation of the Mines Act, 1923. In case you are unfamiliar with the rights that a mine worker gets with this act the. forthcoming discussion is for you to take a stand against all the violations. and inhumane treatment of companies making these workers. work for an undefined number of hours.
The Mines Act of 1923
This act not only entitles the power of administering the affairs of a particular. coal mine to inspectors supervised by the mining board and committee. The act ensures the establishment of canteens, shelters, first aid rooms. alongside the rapid provision of medical appliances to make. sure that the life of all these mine workers can be. protected in case of some serious incidents caused with the regular blasting of these mines.
The Mines Act ensures limiting the number of working hours for the mine workers be they working on the surface or below ground. The mine workers are. entitled to avail annual leaves with holidays besides to leaves to celebrate their cultural festivals.
The Real Picture
The real picture is completely opposite as these mine workers had to work below and above ground irrespective of their age and gender. That is correct, the female workers had to work for similar hours under the given circumstances to run the hours with smallest wages. The government needs to take necessary steps to ensure the good health and safety of mine workers as there are many mine disasters recorded in the history of Pakistan causing several casualties as a result of explosions. One such incident occurred in Balochistan where seven miners got killed alongside forty-one other miners who were. trapped underground as a result of three coal mine explosions which triggered the coal mine to collapse in 2011. These miners were 1200 meters underground in Sorange district of Balochistan. Three blasts occurred and trapped these miners so deep that it got very difficult for the rescue teams to find a way to take out the miners.
The province generally remains notorious for coming under the influence of the insurgency of the neighbouring countries. Under these circumstances, the poor families find it hard to make ends meet and if they get any job, it’s nothing more than putting one’s life in danger and digging deep into a coal mine to get all the extracts of coal. The reports which came into the limelight revealed that the government inspectors did warn the anxious contractors to abstain from starting the extraction from the mine as the analysis revealed an enough of methane gas inside the mine. The contractor completely ignored all the warnings and initiated the work that became the reason for the tragedy. One of these is the Thar Coal Underground Gasification led by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, a nuclear scientist and member of the Planning Commission. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources allocated 2.5 million rupees for this project. The project has an estimated budget of 126 million rupees.
Some of the major. agreements include the collaboration of CMEC and the Punjab Government. for establishing Salt Range Coal-fired power plants. Cooperation. between Hubco Power Company and CPIH to build Hubco. Power Station, Development of Sahiwal Power Station by the combined. work of Industrial and Commercial. Bank Limited, Shandong Ruyi Group. and Huaneng Shandong Electricity Limited, Engro Power gen by China. Development Bank Corporation, Government of Pakistan’s. and Power China’s agreement on Port Qasim EPC power station.
Although there are almost 50 small mines operating in district Musakael district, Thar. provides the largest reserves of coal as discovered during the early 90s. An important point to mention. here is the special measure for. reducing the emission of carbon fumes, sulphur and ash which is quite injurious to health.
Projects in Pakistan
In 2013, Gadani, Balochistan became. the focus of the government to establish ten coal-powered. plants which would produce 6600 MW of electricity. with the aid of 14 billion US dollars as part of the Pakistan Power Park Company. We can see some progress in the following year in which Pakistan’s. Private Power and Infrastructure Board signed two Memoranda of Understanding. with China Gezhouba Group Company. for establishing four power plants that would produce 660 MW. of electricity in the same region. The Noel Corp of Czech Republic. has also discussed a roadmap to set up a coal power plant with. a capacity of producing 400 MW of electricity in Sindh.
There are many projects. which are game changers uplifting Pakistan’s economy and industrial exports. But the most important point to mention here. is safeguarding the rights of those poor souls who lose their life while. digging deep into these pit holes for the sake of extracting these fossil fuels. Pakistan is a blessed state but it came into being with. the aim of providing equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their. caste, colour and religion and race.