North Waziristan Agency – one of the seven agencies of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) – a mountainous region is spread over the areas from west and south west of Peshawar between the Touchi River to the north and the Gomal River to the South. It has borders with Afghanistan and its mountains are famous for natural resources and minerals especially for huge deposits of chromate. This area confronting with worst law and order situation since 2004 when military operations were launched to combat terrorists in the area.
The local people are digging out these minerals by using dangerous means like blasting, on one hand destroy large part of these reserves while on the other this activity inflict irreparable damage to eco-system of the area.
No proper, planned and modern system is being used to explore these mineral resources as the Government is still showing no interest in exploration because no industries were set up in the area for raw material as the situation is not favorable for it.
Extremism and militancy have brought already poor economic and trade activities of the Agency to a standstill, while many traders and businessmen have migrated to other parts of the country because of the fear of being kidnapped for ransom or killed by unknown armed groups.
“Here in North Waziristan 50 per cent chromate reserves are available which are mostly in the mountains of southern part of the Agency like Zway, Shawal, Gorwaik and Mohammad Khel. Mohammad Khel is at present major Chromate producing area”, said a local businessmen of NWA Abdul Matib, adding that there were also huge deposits of precious stones, copper, granite, iron etc in the area and these are being explored through the local methods like blasting, using of bulldozers, which result in destruction of huge quantity of these minerals.
Mohammad Yaqoob Shah, General Manager for Minerals, FATA Development Authority (FDA) was of the view that huge deposits of various minerals like gold, copper, chromate and lot of others are available on 4707 square kilometer area of NWA.
After digging 7000 meter deep the surface, the FDA experts reach to conclusion that 36,000 million tons of copper is available in just 16 kilometer area of NWA Boya Shinkai spot. FDA has tested 37,000 samples of natural resources in laboratories, he said.
Current price of one ton copper is seven thousand dollars in international market and mountains of NWA have deposits of billions dollars hidden in just 16 kilometer area which if explored can change the fate of most deprived inhabitants of this war ravaged area as well as bring economic stability in country, a FDA expert said..
At present minerals in NWA are being explored through non-technical ways and smuggled to china, the experts maintained, adding that this practice was not giving any benefit to country’s economy and it is imperative for the sake of country’s socio economic uplift the Government should start work on exploration like in Sandak Baluchistan where thousands of local businessmen and common people are busy in positive work.
A senior official of Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) revealed that Eisha Spot in NWA have rich reserves of oil and gas and if explored, it will be enough to meet Pakistan’s energy requirements for the next 40 years. Other mineral reserves including chromate, copper, gold, silver, marble, etc could also be found in these areas.
He disclosed that in 1996, a British Petroleum Company indicated after a seismic survey that the oil and gas reserves of NWA have the success possibility of 1:3 while these possibilities in Middle East are 1:10. Some mountains have also been identified in NWA which are rich in gold and silver mines.
Deputy Director Minerals FDA, Sadat-ur-Rehman said that in Bannu-Miranshah Road and southern parts of the Agency have great possibilities of oil and gas and the environment is suitable for all kinds of minerals. Huge reservoirs of oil and natural gas have been explored. Pakistan and foreign petroleum companies which have desire to get licenses for exploration of minerals in FATA would conduct seismic survey to ascertain the quantity of these minerals.
FDA Deputy Director also revealed that during last 20 years, a number of surveys have been conducted regarding copper in NWA during which large reserves of copper were explored while there were also possibility of other reserves.
The experts of minerals were of the opinion that these resources were being destroyed due to non technical ways of exploration. They suggest that government should focus on it and explore these minerals by using modern techniques. Experts are saying why the government not inviting foreign investment companies to explore minerals in a better way, although lots of companies are ready to come.
The experts of minerals observed that the government should not make lame excuses to neglect this important sector under the garb of security concerns as security of just 16 kilometer area will not be a herculean task for government of Pakistan.
About half of the population of NWA is already busy in this business of exploration and if they were provided training and modern equipments it will be beneficial for the people of this area and rest of the country.
A local businessman of NWA expressed that, he invested four and a half million rupees in this business but due to the decreasing market value of chromate currently he faced huge loss. The international economic recession badly affected this metal as well while internationally demand of this metal was also at lowest ebb nowadays China which is the big investor of this sector and Chinese businessmen are purchasing it from Karachi.
He also said that he along with other businessmen is facing huge loss as Chromate price was decreased from Rs 50,000 (fifty thousand) per ton to just Rs 14,000 (fourteen thousand). He also disclosed that they are digging out very precious stones and other materials. Gold is attached with Copper but due to lack of awareness and scientific procedures, they cannot differentiate between good and bad materials. The Dealers are taking it on a very low price and no local experts dealers are there.
The Government has showed no interest in exploration and situation is also not favorable for installing industries in Waziristan. It is responsibility of the Government to make efforts to improve law and order situation in Waziristan to keep the people involved in exploration business. As it is said, where there is development there will be peace.
Umar Daraz Wazir, is Correspondent of FRC in North Waziristan Agency and can be reached through Umardaraz_2005@yahoo.com