A secure and resilient marketplace is essential for our national security, economic security, and technological independence. COVID-19 has proved that the lack of domestic production of crucial antibiotics challenges our ability to counter threats — ranging from pandemics to bioterrorism.
Pakistan has an abundance of mineral resources — one of the key ingredients for a chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The vast reserves of minerals it is endowed with cover an outcrop area of 600,000 square kilometres. There are 92 known minerals, of which 52 are commercially leveraged, with 68.52 million metric tons per year. The sector is a promising one with an average growth of 2-3 per cent per annum, the existence of above 5,000 operational mines, 50,000 SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) and the direct employment of 300,000 workers.
The minerals’ sector has been one of the significant sources of the economic success of several developed countries; China, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Brazil etc. The mineral sector’s contribution is diverse: trade promotion, the facilitation of natural resource exploitation, improvement in per capita income, increased employment, the expansion of the communication base for economic activities, enhancement of income levels, the acceleration of economic growth. Several developed countries have exploited their original mineral resources by using them as intermediate goods and finished products. Many of the countries are importing minerals, refining, adding value and then exporting.
Pakistan has the world’s second-largest salt mines and fifth-largest copper and gold reserves, second-largest coal deposits, and an estimated billions of barrels of crude oil. However, despite huge potential, the mineral sector’s contribution to Pakistan’s GDP is around 3 per cent. The country’s exports are only about 0.1 per cent of the world’s total. In 2017, Pakistan’s total mineral exports were $500 million compared to the world’s $401 billion. Several gaps exist in the exploitation and marketing of minerals. There are missing links in the Regulatory Framework between the national mineral policy and local mining policies/laws, resulting in procedural delays, creating hurdles for investors, particularly foreign investors. Insufficient infrastructure for enabling business — i.e. a paucity of mine access roads, a connecting roads network, utilities and industrial zones — is one of the key factors behind low investment and poor growth of the minerals sector. The technology adopted both in the quarrying and processing sub-sectors is outdated. It cannot produce standardised and uniform quality products for the domestic and export markets in particular. As a result, the quarry wastage in Pakistan reaches 75 per cent compared to the international standard of up to 45 per cent.
Human Resource also has low productivity in this sector, with fewer qualified and a less-trained workforce in the mining and processing level. In addition, there is no dedicated training institute providing quality training in mineral mining and processing.
Pakistan requires a regulatory framework, resource mapping, infrastructure development, technological refresh, access to finance, human resource development marketing, and a district Review and Monitoring Committee constitution.
The Employers’ Federation of Pakistan project ‘Minerals to Chemicals Committee’ has tasked itself to create value-added products out of these raw materials to limit raw material export. They are currently working on fluorspar, chromite, quartz, magnesite, antimony, talc and barium to uplift the SME sector of Pakistan. Pakistan’s underlying commercial, industrial foundations are central to our security. However, several security experts have raised concerns about the defence industry’s reliance on limited domestic suppliers, a global supply chain vulnerable to disruption, and competitor country suppliers. We need an ecosystem of innovation, skills, and production facilities that Pakistan currently lacks. That could help redefine our very existence.