Balochistan contains a wide variety of minerals, most notably natural gas and coal
Last Updated: 13 Feb. 2014
Natural resources encompass all those substances –air, water, trees, minerals and plants –that are produced by nature and are harnessed by men for their benefit. Balochistan contains a wide variety of minerals but other natural resources (such as water reservoirs or forests) are limited in this province. According to the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), there are 106 minerals found in Balochistan. A 2008 World Bank report stated that 39 minerals were being exploited from Balochistan at that time, while a 2012 GSP data report indicated that nearly 80% of all minerals came from Balochistan. Aside from coal, natural gas, gold, copper, uranium, iron and various other well-known minerals, it also contains deposits of lead, zinc, chromite, gypsum, and limestone amongst others.
Natural gas, currently the second largest energy source in Pakistan, was accidently discovered in 1952 near the town of Sui, Balochistan. Natural gas has become almost synonymous with the name Sui, and though Balochistan’s production has increased over time, its percentage share in Pakistan’s total production has decreased. In 1995, Balochistan was contributing nearly 56% to Pakistan’s total output of natural gas, but by 2007 its shares had dropped to 22.7%, and that same year it consumed only 5.81% of the country’s total output. Currently, Balochistan is the second largest producer of gas in Pakistan after Sindh. But consumption of natural gas is greatest in Punjab followed by Sindh, whereas Balochistan and KPK consume much less.
Majority of the natural gas is produced in one geographical region comprising of East Central Balochistan and Upper Sindh. The oldest and largest natural gas field in Pakistan is the Sui Gas Field located at the foot of the Marri-Bugti Hills in Balochistan. The second largest gas field, Marri Gas Field, is located in Upper Sindh.
Despite the extraction of gas since the 1950s, approximately only 14 urban townships receive gas supply, including Quetta, Kalat, Mastung, and Pishin. There are still a large number of rural areas in Balochistan, including those near to the gas field, that do not have access to gas. This issue and the distribution of income from the natural gas to Balochistan has been a source of great tension within the province. These tensions have come to a head in the last decade with numerous bombings of the gas pipelines by Baloch nationalists.
Pakistan is believed to have 186 billion tonnes of coal reserves as of 2013, but is mostly of poor quality. Sindh has the largest coal reserves of 185.5 billion tones, followed by Balochistan, which is believed to have 0.459 billion tonnes of coal reserves (less than 1% of Pakistan’s total reserves). Despite this it contributes more than 50% to Pakistan’s total coal production annually. The majority of the coal is used in brick kilns and a small amount is used as an energy source.
Balochistan has 6 developed coalfields all of which are located in northern part of the province. There is the Mach-Abegum coalfield found in Bolan district approximately 70 km southeast of Quetta. Sor Range- Sinjidi-Deghari coalfield is situated 28 km east of Quetta and is considered the deepest coalmine in Pakistan. Pir Ismail Ziarat-Margar-Narwar coalfield is situated 60 km east of Quetta, and the Duki-Anambar coalfield is located in Loralai District. The Khost-Sharig-Harnai coalfield is located in Sibi District about 160 km from Quetta, and the Chamalang coalfield is found in Loralai District.
The distribution of income from Balochistan’s mineral resources is a source of discontent, with recent reports of coal miners in Balochistan facing threats from nationalist groups This is in addition to the dangerous working environment they face where the equipment is outdated and coal dust contributes to numerous diseases and early death.
Copper, gold, silver, and iron are a few of the more well-known and important minerals present in Balochistan. All four are found in large quantities in Chagai District. In fact one very large deposit of copper and gold found in the small town of Reko Diq in Chagai District has recently been the source of a great deal of controversy and a court case. The agreements made with international mining companies and the resulting distribution of income is the main source of contention.
Khan, Fazle Karim. Pakistan: Geography, Economy and People. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.