Game changers | Farrukh Saleem

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April 2016: The Thar Coalfield is a ‘game changer’. We have been told that “it is one of the world’s largest lignite deposits”. We have been told that “it will generate 100,000 MW of electricity” and that “it comprises 175 billion tonnes of coal sufficient to meet the country’s fuel requirements for 200 years” (Pakistan’s current installed capacity is around 23,000 MW). We have also been told that Thar coalfields “have an estimated lignite reserves equivalent to total oil reserves of Iran and Saudi Arabia combined”.

Yes, Thar coal-based electricity tariff was expected to be “much lower” than refined furnace oil-based power tariff and Pakistani consumers were to directly benefit from the huge bonanza.

February 2016: The $16 billion LNG agreement with Qatar “is a well thought-out deal because it would be a game changer and would help save $1 billion annually besides fulfilling 25 percent of the energy requirement of the country”. LNG was to “end the energy crisis” and “reduce oil import bill and unemployment…enhance the industrial growth and facilitate various sectors like textile and the CNG industry”.

For the record, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) claims that 70 textile mills in Punjab have shut down as they were unable to operate because of the high cost of LNG. APTMA claims that they are being offered LNG at the rate of Rs1,047 per unit while textile mills in Sindh are being provided natural gas at Rs600 per unit. For the record, LNG is 75 percent more expensive.

June 2015: Saindak Copper Gold Project is a ‘game changer’. Saindak has “412 million tonnes of ore reserves containing on average 0.5 grammes of gold per tonne and 1.5 grammes of silver per tonne”, we were told. Saindak will produce “15,800 tonnes of blister copper annually, containing 1.5 tonnes of gold and 2.8 tonnes of silver”, we were told. The project was leased out to Metallurgical Corporation of China.

The latest on Saindak is that the government of Balochistan “is all set to take over the Saindak copper-cum-gold project”.

February 2015: The iron ore mining project in Rajoa, Chiniot “will bring prosperity in the province and this is a game changer project for Pakistan”. We were told that it was a “historical day” for Punjab and that “on the sacred land of noble people, God has given us the gift to boost our economy”. We were told that the “iron ore reserves in Punjab amount to about 2,000 million tonnes, spread over an area of 240,975 acres”.

The Rajoa Iron Ore Project signed between the government of Punjab and the Metallurgical Corporation of China was to “provide jobs to an estimated 100,000 people”. Yes, “major reserves of iron, copper, silver and gold were to break the begging bowl culture”. For the record, Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities have gone up from Rs19 trillion on the day the iron reserves were discovered to over Rs22 trillion.

January 2015: Reko Diq was to be a “$500 billion copper” and gold ‘game changer’. Imagine: “5.9 billion tonnes of copper”. Imagine: an “annual production estimated at 200,000 tonnes of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold contained in 600,000 tonnes of concentrate”.

The latest on the ‘Magic Mountains of Reko Diq’ is that the government of Pakistan is now trying to reach a settlement at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the International Chamber of Commerce tribunals.

Conclusion: The only ‘game changers’ are the people of Pakistan – our human assets. In this day and age, the only ‘game changer’ is an educated, healthy labour force.

Farrukh Saleem is a columnist based in Islamabad.