Pakistan and coal

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This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Pakistan and coal.
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Coal was first discovered across Pakistan and the rest of South Asia in the 1880s and was used by the British-owned railway companies under colonial rule. Later, post-colonial Pakistan had used coal to fule its industry from independence to the discovery of the Baluchistan's Sui gas field in 1952 and the Toot oilfield in 1964.

Environmentalists are now concerned that Pakistan has recently discovered 1 low and 4 low to medium quality coal seams in the Punjab and plans to re-flue its economically important cement industry with it after their oil fields have run dry due to heavy over use. Low sulfur coal was recently reported to have been found at the Baluchistan near Quetta as well. There are reports that a low-sulfur deposit has been found near Islamabad.

Sindh's Thar desert and Neyveli (in Pakistan) lignite mines will also be expanded soon for industrial usage to. Special measures are being employed to reduce the resulting fly ash, carbon footprint and sulphur fume emission problems after it's burnt.

Coal reserves

Pakistan's largest coal reserves are found in Sindh with approximately 184,123 million tonnes:[1] [2] [3]

Region Coal (Million Tonnes)
Sindh: Lakhra, SondaThatta, Jherruck, Thar, Others 184,123
Punjab: Eastern Salt Range, Central Salt Range, Makerwal 235
Balochistan: Khost-Sharig-Harnai, Sor Range/Degari, Duki, Mach-Kingri, Musakhel Abegum, Pir Ismail Ziarat, Chamalong 617
Total 184,975

Proposed coal projects

Thar coalfields

The recent discovery of low-ash, low-sulfur lignite coal reserves in the Tharparkar (Thar) Desert in Sindh province has increased both domestic and foreign development interest in using the coal for a local coal-fired plant in Pakistan. President of Pakistan Economy Watch Dr Murtaza Mughal has said there are 185 billion tonnes of coal worth USD $25 trillion[4] In 2007, the Shenhua Group of China withdrew from a $1.5 billion Thar coal project because it considered the power tariff rate inadequate for power generation.[5]

In October 2009, the Sindh government set up a joint venture company — the Sindh Engro Mining Company —on a 40:60 ratio for exploration in Block 2 of the Thar area, done through international competitive bidding. The company planned to develop an open pit mine of 6.5 million tonnes per annum capacity initially which would be scaled up to 22.5 million tonnes per annum subsequently. Power generation would be carried out by Engro Power Gen. Initially, 1,200 megawatts would be generated and it would be raised to 4,000 MW. The first megawatt of electricity from Thar into the national grid was planned for 2015-2016. A licence had also been granted for an experimental project on coal gasification.[6]

In December 2009 the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Oracle Coalfields, a company incorporated in England and Wales and primarily engaged in coal drilling, exploration, mining, and production, to set up a major coal-fired power plant fueled by coal to be mined at Thar Coalfields in Sindh. According to the MoU, Oracle Coalfields will own and operate the mine supplying coal to the power plant. A KESC release said the intention of KESC is to be one of the pioneers in tapping indigenous Thar coal reserves for power generation.[7]

The Sindh government in Pakistan signed a $30 million agreement with the World Bank for the Thar Coal and Power Technical Assistance Project (TCAP). However, in May 2010 Pakistani news outlets reported that the World Bank had withdrawn from the project. One anonymous government official stated that "major reasons for the World Bank's withdrawal from the project is lack of emphasis on Thar coal resources in our national energy policy and our failure to highlight these reserves as critical for our national security." One issue reportedly of concern to the World Bank was the resettlement of local people.[8]

In 2011, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company’s Chief Executive Officer Khalid Mansoor warned that delay in provision of infrastructure like water and transmission lines might jeopardise the $3.4 billion coal project at Thar. The joint venture between the Sindh government and Engro and is scheduled to produce 1,200-MW in the first phase by 2015-16 and 4,000-MW in the second phase by 2020. In a presentation on Thar coal to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in Karachi, Mr Mansoor said that lack of grant payment of Rs10 billion by the federal government had created financial difficulties for smooth running of the project. Thar Coal Energy Board Managing Director Ajaz Ali Khan endorsed the views of Mr Mansoor and said that the vital infrastructure projects for Thar coal development was needed by 2015, at an estimated cost of Rs148 billion. Khan requested the prime minister to organise an international conference donors such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and investors from China, USA, UK, Japan and the Middle East for attracting foreign direct investment in Thar coal projects.[9]

On May 14, 2011, Pakistan's Federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh assured the Thar Coal Energy Board (TCEB) that the federal government would provide "all possible assistance and funding" for infrastructure development for the Thar coalfields. He gave this assurance at a meeting of the TCEB chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, which gave an update on infrastructure development projects that included a water supply scheme of Makhi-Farash, transmission network, railway link, effluent disposal, etc. The meeting also discussed infrastructure projects that included a water supply scheme for Thar coalfields, a 296-kilometre-long road from Karachi to Islamkot via Thatta, and an airport at Islamkot with an estimated cost of Rs972 million.[6]

According to official sources, the chief minister emphasised that the development of Thar coal was the "central policy agenda of the government" and "indigenous resources could resolve the chronic energy problems of Pakistan for the next 100 years." TCEB, on the basis of recommendations of the committee, allocated coal blocks offered for bidding to various local and international bidding companies based upon the companies' financial strength, mining capabilities and project timelines. The chief minister noted that a fiscal incentives package for indigenous coal-based projects had been approved.[6]

On November 24, 2011, Science and Technology Planning Commission member Dr Samar Mubarakmand said the Thar coal project will become operational in December 2013 at a cost of Rs8.898 billion, with a foreign exchange component of Rs 5.847 billion.[10]

Thar Coal Underground Gasification project

The Thar Coal Underground Gasification (TCUG) project led by nuclear scientist and member Planning Commission Dr. Samar Mubarakmand has been allocated Rs2.5 million by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources. The estimated total cost of the project is Rs126.649 million, but as of June 2011 has funding of Rs20 million. Under the project, coal would not be mined but rather plants would be installed on deposits to produce gas.[11]

On November 24, 2011, Mubarakmand said the work was in progress and the first 50 megawatts of the gasified project had almost been completed.[12]

China to invest in Thar

Sino-Sindh Resources, a local subsidiary of Global Mining Company, is investing in Pakistan's Thar Coal Block-1 for coal mining and power generation of 900 Mega Watt (MW), signing an MoU with the government of Sindh for the project in September 2011. The company plans to invest US $4.5 billion until 2016. Thar Coal field would also be declared a Special Economic Zone, and mining would be started in April, 2012.[13]

Type of coal found

Bituminous coal is a relatively hard and less sulfurus coal containing a tar-like substance called bitumen and would be burnt largely on domestic fires after being turned into coke fuel. Sub-bituminous coal is a coal whose properties range from those of lignite to those of bituminous coal and is used primarily as fuel for steam-electric power generation. It is set to fuel power stations and cement works in Pakistan.

Lignite is a low-grade, sulfurous coal that is generally used in modified industrial furnaces to generate heat for boilers, coke oven heaters, brick kilns, etc.

Proposed coal plants

Jamshoro power generation station

In February 2014 Pakistan and the Asian Development Bank signed an agreement for $900 million ADB assistance for the 1200 MW Jamshoro power generation station, expected to be completed by the end of 2018.[14]

In August 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced plans for the Pakistan Power Park Company (PPPC), a US$14 billion proposal for the generation of 6,600 megawatts of electricity through 10 coal-powered plants in Gadani, Balochistan. The plants would use imported coal. Eviction notices under the colonial-era Land Acquisition Act of 1894 have reportedly gone out to the villages of Mauza Janobi Mawoli and Mauza Kund to make room for the PPPC.[15]

Port Qasim power station

In February 2013, it was reported that UAE-based Burj Power was developing the first phase of a 500 (4x125) megawatt (MW) power plant at Port Qasim, near Karachi in Pakistan. The first plant is scheduled to become operational by 2016. The entire station is projected to cost $700 million.[16]

Sindh power station

The Czech Republic firm Noel Corporation discussed plans to build a 400 MW coal power plant in Sindh, Pakistan with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah in November 2012.[17]

Gadani Power Park

In August 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced plans for the Pakistan Power Park Company (PPPC), a US$14 billion proposal for the generation of 6,600 megawatts of electricity through 10 coal-powered plants in Gadani, Balochistan. The plants would use imported coal. Eviction notices under the colonial-era Land Acquisition Act of 1894 have reportedly gone out to the villages of Mauza Janobi Mawoli and Mauza Kund to make room for the PPPC.[18]

In January and March 2014 China Gezhouba Group Company (GGGC) and Pakistan's Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) signed two Memorada of Understanding for setting up four 660 MW coal plants at the Gadani Power Park in Gadani, Balochistan.[19]

Mine disasters

March 2011: 43 killed in explosions

On March 19, 2011, it was reported that at least seven miners were killed and 41 others trapped underground when three explosions triggered a collapse in a coal mine in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The miners were working around 1,200 metres underground in the far-flung Sorange district of an insurgency-torn province. Officials said the chances of the missing surviving were slim. The mine was poorly ventilated, allowing poisonous gases to accumulate and, officials believe, causing the three blasts. The coal mine is run by the state-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation. Baluchistan is plagued by an insurgency wanting more jobs and royalties, with hundreds of people dying in the violence since 2004. Most coal mines in the impoverished province are notorious for poor safety standards and facilities, with similar deadly accidents having occurred in the past.[20]

On March 22, 2011, it was reported that 43 were presumed dead, all bodies were recovered. Iftikhar Ahmed, a government mine inspector, said the mine was declared dangerous two weeks prior because of methane gas, but the warning was ignored by the contractor. A total of nine miners were rescued. State officials promised action against those they deemed responsible for ignoring warnings to stop mining due to methane buildup inside the mine shaft. [21][22]

Coal exports

The exports of petroleum and coal products increased by 38.59 per cent during the first quarter of 2011 as compared to the same period of 2010. The export of coal registered an increase of 347.22 per cent during period.[23]

Articles and Resources


  1. Year Book 2005-2006 Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources Pakistan
  2. Pakistan Coal World Energy.Org
  3. Thar Coal Resources Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources Pakistan
  4. "Thar coal reserves can turn around Pakistani fortunes," Steel Guru, February 5, 2009
  5. Engr Abdul Waheed Bhutto,“Options for coal-based power projects” Dawn Media Group, November 23, 2009
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Centre to provide funds for Thar coalfield development", May 14, 2011.
  7. “KESC & Oracle to set up Thar’s first coal power plant” Daily Regional Times, December 16, 2009
  8. Ibrahim Sajid Malick, " World Bank abandons coal project in Pakistan", Pakistan Headlines Examiner, May 16, 2010.
  9. "Sindh Engro coal project enters crucial phase" Jinah Se Quaid, date unknown.
  10. "Thar coal project to become operational by 2013: Dr Samar", Nov. 25, 2011.
  11. Mumtaz Alvi, "Govt ignores allocations for Thar Coal project" The News International, June 20, 2011.
  12. "Thar coal project to become operational by 2013: Dr Samar", Nov. 25, 2011.
  13. "China to invest US $ 1.5 bn in Thar Coal" AP of Pakistan, Sep. 20, 2011.
  14. "Accord today for $900m ADB assistance,", Feb 12, 2014.
  15. Fahim Khan, "Power Park: An ill-conceived project,", Sep. 28, 2013.
  16. Diarmaid Williams, "Burj Power to develop coal power in $700m deal," Power Engineering, Feb 22, 2013.
  17. Diarmaid Williams, "Czechs plan coal power plant in Pakistan," PEI, Dec. 12, 2012.
  18. Fahim Khan, "Power Park: An ill-conceived project,", Sep. 28, 2013.
  19. "Coal-based ventures: Chinese firm eyes up to four plants at Gadani Power Park," The Express Tribune, March 19, 2014
  20. "Seven die, 41 trapped in coal mine accident" Gulf Times, March 21, 2011.
  21. "Pakistan mine gas explosion 'kills 52'" Guardian, March 21, 2011.
  22. "Bodies of dead miners recovered in Pakistan" BBC News, March 22, 2011.
  23. "Exports of petroleum, coal surge" The Nation (Pakistan), October 27, 2011.

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