Pakistan To Allow Gemstone Exploration

December 30, 2003

Pakistan To Allow Gemstone Exploration

The Daily Times of Pakistan reports the country's North West Frontier Province is studying a proposal to allow private-sector companies to explore for gemstone deposits in specific areas. A government official says the exploration work is costly and the government wanted to hand it over to the private sector. "The policy is expected to be announced within three months and will allow private investors to prepare assessment reports themselves about the exploration sites. Then, they would be given the right to buy the site or to start joint ventures or to give it back to the government under a certain framework," he says. "It will help develop the gemstone sector in the province without government spending."

Gemstone exporter Parvez Elahi Malik tells the Daily Times gemstone exports from NWFP could easily be increased if incentives are given to the private sector. Jade, flourite, tourmaline, ruby, lapis lazuli, kunzite, garnet, aquamarine, topaz, peridot, emerald and other precious stones are available in NWFP and its adjacent tribal areas, Northern Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, says Bakhtiar Khan, manager of the area's Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority. "The pink topaz is [a] valuable gemstone found only in the Katlang area of Mardan district," he says.

Khan says some of the deposits have been explored and are ready for mining while detailed exploration is going on in other places. The provincial government has formed a Gems and Minerals Promotion Committee to increase gemstone exports. Pakistan also instituted a mineral policy in 1995 to attract foreign investors. Khan says changes in mining concession rules are also under consideration to encourage foreign investment in the mining sector. "The private sector can now undertake mining on a five-acre area and the terms and conditions have been made very simple," he says. He says this policy will discourage informal mining and help socio-economic development in the area.

"A proposal has been put forward to the government to set up a Gems Export Center where the gems would be put on display throughout the year and a one-window operation would be provided to facilitate foreign investors," says Khan. He says the center would have bonded warehouse facilities, duty exemption on machinery and instruments and have exhibition halls where different products and gems would be displayed.

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