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Hilal English

SIFC, From Vision to Reality (Part IV)

May 2024

Pakistan's Visionary Steps in Mines and  Minerals Development


Pakistan primes mineral sector for global impact through responsible mining and strategic partnerships.


Pakistan is rich in vital minerals that are essential for the global energy transition and industrial development. With its abundant natural resources and diverse geological landscape, the country offers lucrative opportunities for mineral exploration and investment across the complete mining cycle. The enhanced exploration potential in Pakistan promises significant returns for investors, making the mineral sector a prime investment opportunity. The country is endowed with a wide range of minerals, including coal, copper, gold, iron ore, and rare earth elements. These minerals are vital for various industries, such as energy, construction, electronics, and manufacturing.
As the world transitions towards renewable energy sources and sustainable technologies, the demand for critical minerals has surged. Pakistan's mineral reserves play a crucial role in meeting this demand and supporting the global energy transition. The mineral sector in Pakistan offers attractive investment opportunities across the entire mining cycle, including exploration, extraction, processing, and export. The development of mineral resources contributes to infrastructure development, revenue generation, and the diversification of the economy. Advances in exploration technologies and techniques have improved the efficiency and accuracy of mineral exploration activities. This has led to the discovery of new mineral deposits and increased the potential for successful exploration projects in Pakistan.
Pakistan's mines and mineral sector encounter a myriad of challenges that impede its growth and development. Foremost among these challenges is inadequate infrastructure, encompassing transportation, power supply, and water availability, which not only obstruct the establishment of mining projects but also inflate operational costs. Moreover, the sector grapples with security concerns, particularly in certain regions prone to instability, posing risks to mining operations and deterring potential investors. Complex regulatory frameworks, bureaucratic hurdles, and inconsistent policies further exacerbate uncertainties for investors, often leading to delays in project implementation.
Environmental and social impacts remain a pressing issue, with mining activities causing habitat destruction, water pollution, and community displacement. To mitigate these risks, it is imperative to enforce responsible and sustainable mining practices. Despite its potential, the sector faces challenges in investment perception, with concerns about instability, security risks, and governance issues dissuading potential investors. Overcoming these obstacles necessitates collaborative efforts among the government, industry stakeholders, and communities to foster an environment conducive to sustainable and responsible mining practices, thereby maximizing benefits for all involved stakeholders.


One of the primary functions of the SIFC is to attract both domestic and foreign investment into the mining sector by showcasing investment opportunities and providing comprehensive information on regulations, incentives, and potential projects.


The Government of Pakistan has proactively addressed the challenges plaguing its mines and minerals sector by implementing a range of strategic measures aimed at fostering investment and sustainable development. In June 2023, the establishment of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) marked a significant milestone in Pakistan's efforts to promote investment and facilitate the development of its mines and minerals sector. The Council's role is pivotal in creating an enabling environment for investment by undertaking a range of strategic initiatives tailored to the specific needs of the mining industry. One of the primary functions of the SIFC is to attract both domestic and foreign investment into the mining sector by showcasing investment opportunities and providing comprehensive information on regulations, incentives, and potential projects. By acting as a centralized platform, the Council effectively highlights Pakistan's mining potential, thus stimulating investor interest and fostering sectoral growth.



Moreover, the SIFC engages in policy advocacy efforts aimed at influencing policymakers to enact reforms that support investment in the mining sector. This includes recommending policy changes to streamline regulatory processes, enhance transparency, and create a more favorable investment climate, thereby contributing to the overall competitiveness of the sector. Additionally, the Council offers essential support services to investors, aiding them in navigating regulatory requirements, acquiring permits and licenses, and addressing other administrative hurdles. Furthermore, the SIFC plays a crucial role in promoting best practices in responsible mining, environmental sustainability, and community engagement among investors and industry stakeholders. In terms of monitoring and evaluation, the SIFC closely tracks investment trends, evaluates the effectiveness of its promotion activities, and identifies areas for improvement. Through data-driven insights and stakeholder feedback, the Council continuously refines its strategies to better meet the evolving needs of investors and enhance the overall effectiveness of its initiatives.
Internationally, the SIFC engages in outreach efforts to promote Pakistan's mining sector on the global stage, fostering partnerships with foreign investors, companies, and multilateral organizations. By participating in international conferences, organizing investment roadshows, and leveraging diplomatic channels, the Council attracts foreign investment and expertise, thereby contributing to the sustainable development of Pakistan's mines and minerals sector. The establishment of the SIFC represents a significant step forward in Pakistan's efforts to promote investment and facilitate the development of its mines and minerals sector. Through its multifaceted approach encompassing investment promotion, policy advocacy, investor support, promotion of best practices, and international engagement, the SIFC plays a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of Pakistan's mineral resources for sustainable economic development.
In its brief but impactful existence, the SIFC has already notched several notable achievements within a short span of time. These milestones underscore the council's dedication and effectiveness in promoting investment and economic growth. This includes:
Reko Diq Project. With the recent visit of the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, it's evident that Saudi Arabia is poised to invest significantly in the Reko Diq project alongside Manara Minerals, signaling a promising partnership in the making. The venture, spearheaded by the newly formed Manara Minerals Investment Company, a collaboration between the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) and the Public Investment Fund (PIF), underscores a strategic move to bolster global mining assets and fortify resilient supply chains. Negotiations for the project's valuation are in full swing, with the Reko Diq Mining Company (RMDC) overseeing the intricate process of finalizing terms and assessing the project's worth. The Reko Diq Project, segmented into two phases with a total estimated capital expenditures (CAPEX) requirement of USD 7 billion, is set to unlock the vast potential of the Reko Diq region, boasting substantial copper and gold reserves. 
Harmonization of Legal/Regulatory Framework. Over the past two decades, Pakistan has undergone significant regulatory reforms, yet there's still work to be done. The country has embarked on a path of privatization, aiming to extend it to remaining public enterprises, including utilities, some of which still operate as natural monopolies. With limited government intervention, ensuring that private sector resource allocation aligns with national priorities and prevents exploitation of consumers by monopolies is crucial. Reforms aim to promote dynamic comparative advantage while safeguarding regulatory authorities from vested interests and ensuring efficient outcomes. Notable achievements include granting autonomy to the State Bank, narrowing the gap between deposit and interest rates, and substantial reforms in the financial and exchange markets. Establishing regulatory bodies for utilities is essential, but vigilance is needed to prevent regulatory capture and corruption. The focus is on recruiting competent officers and adopting effective regulatory measures. Past practices like Cost Plus Pricing and guaranteed rate of profits have been abandoned due to inefficiencies, signaling the need for better alternatives. 



Establishment of Mines and Minerals Division. The government's latest initiative to establish a dedicated Mines and Minerals Division signals a significant push towards bolstering Pakistan's economy through accelerated mining activities. This move follows in the footsteps of previous efforts by the government, which aimed to establish the Mines and Minerals Division to intensify mineral exploitation endeavors nationwide. By creating this division, the government aims to streamline and enhance mining operations, underscoring a commitment to harnessing the country's rich mineral resources for economic growth and development.
MoU by RDMC. In an effort to foster local development and empower youth in Chagai, the RDMC, a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation, took a significant step by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Hunar Foundation (THF). This landmark agreement marks RDMC's inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, focusing on vocational training and capacity building for the youth in the region. Operating under a Joint Venture (JV) agreement with the provincial Government of Balochistan and the Federal Government of Pakistan, RDMC is committed to contributing positively to the communities where it operates. 
▪ Establishment of Mining Fund. Pakistan and Kuwait have solidified their commitment to bolstering the mining sector with the establishment of a USD one billion mining fund, marking a significant stride towards economic growth and sustainability. Islamabad's designation of a state-owned company as the lead entity underscores the seriousness of the collaboration, with initial discussions already underway. Notably, a Kuwaiti company has expressed keen interest in mining metals and minerals crucial for renewable energy initiatives, highlighting the potential for mutually beneficial partnerships. This landmark agreement follows the MoU signed during the caretaker Prime Minister's visit last year. It focuses on investment cooperation in water supply projects and mine development in Chagai and its surrounding regions. 
▪ Joint Venture between MSCI and PMDC. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the SIFC, Pakistan has witnessed a historic milestone with the signing of a groundbreaking JV between Miracle Salt Collective Incorporation (MSCI) from the U.S. and Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) for the Pink Salt project. The signing ceremony, graced by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, marked the beginning of an exciting chapter in Pakistan's salt industry. The pioneering venture between MSCI and PMDC, backed by an initial investment of USD 200 million, signifies a significant leap forward for the country's investment landscape. With a focus on the exploration, processing, branding, and marketing of Pink Salt, this project holds immense promise for transforming Pakistan's export dynamics and ensuring fair pricing for this undervalued commodity. 
Termination of Individual Profit Policy. Pakistan has decided to terminate individual profit policies in the Pink Rock Salt sector. This pivotal decision paves the way for an estimated USD 13 billion worth of opportunities. With abundant rock salt deposits exceeding 65 million metric tons, including significant reserves held by PMDC, Pakistan stands as a key player in the global salt market. This distinctiveness has not only created lucrative trade opportunities worldwide but also fueled a consistent rise in demand.
Ban on Local Export of Pink Rock Salt. The decision by the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce to impose a ban on the export of Pink Rock Salt in its raw form signals a strategic shift towards maximizing economic potential and local industry development. This move, aimed at protecting Pakistan's precious natural resources, is complemented by a proposed Geographical Indication (GI) for Pink Rock Salt. Presently, despite its value in foreign markets, fetching over USD 10 per kilogram, raw Pink Salt is sold domestically for significantly less. With this ban proposal, the focus is on encouraging investors to establish local Pink Rock Salt industries, thus ensuring value-added exports and top-dollar earnings. The initiative also aims to relocate Pink Rock Salt-related industries to Punjab from overseas, aligning with efforts to harness the full potential of the estimated USD 13 billion market within the next 3-5 years, a substantial leap from the current earnings in the mere millions. 
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology. Harnessing the power of GIS technology, the Minerals Development Department has achieved a significant milestone by completing geo-tracking for 3,100 mines and registering 3,600 mining workers with unique identifiers. This initiative not only enhances operational efficiency but also ensures better oversight and management of mining activities. Furthermore, the launch of the Mines Inspection Mobile Application and Web Portal by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) marks a major leap forward in real-time monitoring and inspection of mines. Through this innovative tool, mine inspectors can digitize inspection processes, report violations, and monitor activities with geo-tagging capabilities, promoting safety and compliance with mining regulations. By prioritizing safety, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of mining workers, the Minerals Development Department demonstrates its commitment to responsible resource management and equitable development. 
▪ Feasibility Study of New Minerals Reserves. Exploring new mineral reserves in the Koh-Suleman region promises to unlock a wealth of energy, industrial, and metallic resources, including coal, iron ore, gypsum, dolomite, and more. Through a combination of private and public sector efforts, ongoing exploration and mining activities are underway, facilitated by licenses and leases granted by the Mines and Minerals Department under Punjab Mining Concessions Rules 2002. A topo-geological map of the Suleman Range, spanning Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajan Pur districts, provides valuable insight into potential mineral deposits. 
▪ KPIs for Employees Identified. In a bid to enhance employee performance and ensure accountability, strict measures have been put in place within the SIFC. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been identified to evaluate employee effectiveness, with stringent actions being taken against any illegal activities. The Ministry of Commerce has been tasked with providing new KPIs to improve the performance of Trade and Investment Officers (TIOs) and bolster Pakistan's economic diplomacy efforts. Furthermore, proposals for the appointment of an Investment Ombudsman under the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act, 2022 are being prepared by the Secretary of Law and Justice and the Secretary of the Board of Investment (BoI). 


The Reko Diq Project, segmented into two phases with a total estimated capital expenditures (CAPEX) requirement of USD 7 billion, is set to unlock the vast potential of the Reko Diq region, boasting substantial copper and gold reserves. 


Facilities for Mining Workers. Mining workers and their families are being provided with various essential facilities aimed at improving their overall well-being and quality of life. These initiatives encompass a wide range of benefits, including healthcare facilities, incentives, dispensaries, helplines, and educational opportunities for both children and adults. In the unfortunate event of a worker's death due to a mine accident, a death grant of five lac rupees is provided to the legal heirs as financial assistance, following a thorough scrutiny process by the Regional Scrutiny Committee. Moreover, on the joyful occasion of a daughter's marriage, mine workers receive a marriage grant of seventy thousand rupees, helping to alleviate the financial burden associated with wedding expenses. Additionally, talent scholarships are awarded to all children of mine workers, motivating bright students to pursue further education and empowering them to achieve their academic goals. 
Revenue Generation Plan. In a concerted effort to bolster revenue streams and drive socioeconomic progress, the government has unveiled a comprehensive PKR 150 billion revenue generation plan for the next three years. Crafted through collaborative efforts with the Attached Departments and endorsed by the Chief Minister of Punjab, this initiative underscores a commitment to maximizing the potential of the mines and minerals sector. Implementation is already in motion, with weekly reports and daily monitoring mechanisms ensuring swift progress towards the outlined targets. 


Pakistan and Kuwait have solidified their commitment to bolstering the mining sector with the establishment of a USD one billion mining fund, marking a significant stride towards economic growth and sustainability. 


▪ Significant Boost in Revenue. Thanks to the proactive measures spearheaded by the Ministry of Mines and Minerals in collaboration with the SIFC, Pakistan's revenue has witnessed a significant boost of PKR 15 billion, surpassing expectations by 24 percent. Such strides indicate a promising trajectory, with projections hinting at a potential doubling of revenue collection during the current fiscal year of 2024. The government's initiatives include establishing a Minerals Cell within the Petroleum Division and revising the National Minerals Policy to attract foreign investment, particularly in Balochistan, which is rich in mineral resources. Efforts also extend to amending policies and rules to facilitate gold and copper mining and entice foreign investors. A dedicated Mines and Minerals Division is in the works to address sector-specific challenges, alongside ongoing revisions of the National Minerals Policy and updates to the Mines Act 1923. Officials are actively engaged in conducting a gap analysis to modernize Provincial Minerals Concession Rules, showcasing a commitment to fostering a conducive environment for mineral sector growth and investment in Pakistan.
In addition to the initiatives above, several other measures have been implemented to bolster Pakistan's economic prospects and maximize revenue from its mines and mineral resources. These include the signing of a MoU with the U.A.E and the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) in the mining sector, fostering international partnerships and expertise exchange. Furthermore, the adoption of open bidding for tenders of mining projects has streamlined the process, resolving over a thousand pending applications based on meritocracy. To combat illegal activities and ensure timely payments, mines and minerals committees have been provisionally established, reflecting a proactive stance against malpractice. A zero-tolerance policy against corruption and bureaucratic hurdles has been enforced, underlining the government's commitment to transparency and accountability.
Moreover, awareness campaigns have been launched to attract foreign investments, highlighting Pakistan's potential as an investment destination in the mining sector. The introduction of an e-auction facility has enhanced efficiency and transparency in resource allocation. Additionally, the resolution of 173 old pending cases spanning from 2010 to 2023 and the implementation of new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) signify a concerted effort to address legacy issues and improve regulatory frameworks, fostering a conducive environment for sustainable growth in the mining sector.
In conclusion, Pakistan's Mines and Minerals sector has witnessed remarkable progress and strategic initiatives under the visionary leadership of the SIFC. From forging international partnerships to streamlining regulatory frameworks, from enhancing worker welfare to maximizing revenue generation, a multitude of measures have been undertaken to harness the country's rich mineral resources for sustainable economic development. These efforts underscore Pakistan's commitment to fostering a conducive environment for investment, promoting responsible mining practices, and unlocking the full potential of its mineral sector. With proactive steps in place and promising partnerships on the horizon, Pakistan is poised to emerge as a key player in the global mining landscape, driving economic growth and ensuring equitable development.


 

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