National and International Issues

CPEC and the Importance of Strategic Minerals of Chitral

This piece explores the uses of metallic minerals in different industries and the discovery of metallic minerals that can be of economic use, particularly in Chitral District.



Mineral resources play an important role in the development of modern economy, especially in the 21st century. These minerals – the metallic minerals in particular – are used in both civil and defense industry. In civil industry, it is used for making electric vehicles, medical equipment, smartphones, information and communication technology, computers and laptops, housing, transportation and banking sector. Among the metallic minerals, the extraction of some minerals from mountains or underground mines, like rhodium, palladium and lutetium is very expensive.  
Chitral is the largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is home to a variety of minerals, both metallic and non-metallic. It is spread over an area of about 14,850 sq kms; the district is a part of Malakand Division which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.1 It is a mountainous region which has a greater chance of availability of these metallic minerals. These minerals are found in different mineral blocks of Chitral District. There are different areas in Chitral District which contain metallic minerals such as antimony, copper, lead, tin, silver, vanadium, arsenic and mercury.2 The areas where minerals are found are Krinj mine, Kamal Gol mine, Bakht Gol mine and Partsan antimony mine.3
Chitral has nearly six metallic mineral blocks where minerals like tungsten, silver, gold, copper, cadmium, barium, iron ore, nickel, platinum and molybdenum are found. Five metallic mineral blocks had been selected by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment and Trade (KPBOIT) for the development of these mineral blocks.4 These five metallic mineral blocks include Block-1 (SorRich, Chitral), Block-2 (Tirch), Block-3 (Morich), Block-4 (Pakturi) and Block-9 (Laspur).5
These metallic minerals are used in different civil industries including medical equipment like computerized tomography (CT) scan and x-ray machines. These metallic minerals will help establish high-technology as well as heavy industry inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will create jobs for hundreds and thousands of people within the province. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needs heavy investment worth billions of dollars to develop mineral mines including mines located in Chitral. 
Chitral District has its own strategic importance, because it borders with Afghanistan, especially the Wakhan Corridor. Pakistan will have easy access to Tajikistan through this corridor. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will play an important role in the development of Chitral District and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general. The major projects of CPEC in Chitral include mineral zone, special economic zone, and Gilgit-Shandur-Chitral-Chakdara highway. These projects are expected to provide jobs to the local people of Chitral Valley.
Chitral is a mountainous region where extraction of metallic minerals is very difficult because of the lack of proper mining infrastructure. The metallic minerals that are found in Chitral District are located in three major blocks which include: Pamir, Karakoram and Kohistan Block.6 Each of these mineral blocks contains different types of metallic minerals such as tungsten, gold, silver, antimony and other minerals.⁷
Other metallic minerals which had already been discovered include copper, lead/zinc ore and chromite. The deposits of antimony mineral which is nearly 0.6 million tons, had already been identified in areas of Kring, Patrson and Awrith.⁹ As for iron ore in Chitral is concerned, nearly 6.5 million of iron ore is located in Booni Zom, Dammel and Nissar.10 Other minerals in Chitral include platinum, barium, mercury and other minerals which are found in other mineral blocks. 
The metallic minerals – which include rare earth elements such as, vanadium, niobium, gallium, beryllium, yttrium and zirconium minerals – have also been discovered in Chitral District.11 These three districts also contain other metallic minerals which include: zinc, copper, nickel, chromium, strontium, scandium, barium, thorium (radioactive element) and rubidium.12
Chitral also has other important strategic metallic minerals such as ytterbium, rubidium, lithium, zirconium, hafnium, niobium, titanium, lutetium, gallium, terbium and gadolinium which are found especially in Miniki Gol.13 Some metallic minerals including thorium, barium and zirconium are also located in Garam Chashma region of Chitral District.14
Uses of Metallic Minerals in Civil Industry
The metallic minerals are used in different civil industries, which includes information and communication technology, medical and dental equipment, renewable energy, oil and gas pipelines, mining equipment, infrastructure development industry, automobile industry, space technology, civil aircraft industry and transportation industry. Without the support of these metallic minerals, no civil industry can make progress, as these minerals are used to develop machinery which is installed in industries, such as textile, etc.
Economic Benefits of CPEC Projects to Chitral District
Among the mineral zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Chitral will extract antimony as it is a part of CPEC.15
CPEC projects will bring economic prosperity to Chitral. There are three CPEC mega projects for Chitral District which include antimony mining project, Chitral CPEC link road and Chitral Economic Zone. Chitral CPEC link road will be constructed to connect Gilgit and Chakdara via Shandur and Chitral.16 This link road will connect both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan and it will save time compared to the traditional Karakoram Highway. This link road will help both regions to have direct trade, especially with Chitral district. 
Chitral has a strategic location which connects Afghanistan in the west, Tajikistan in the north via Wakhan Corridor, Gilgit-Baltistan in the east and Upper Dir district in the south. Gilgit-Baltistan has a variety of minerals, both metallic and non-metallic, that can be transported to Peshawar via Chitral CPEC link road. The minerals include gold, platinum, nickel, bismuth, antimony, cobalt, ruby and other minerals.17 
Another project for Chitral District is the mineral economic processing zone which falls under the CPEC project. This Chitral antimony mineral economic processing zone will pave the way for development of other minerals which are found in Chitral. There are plenty of other precious metallic minerals which can be explored and processed through foreign investment.18
The Economic Importance of Minerals for Chitral District
Minerals will play an important role in the economic development of Chitral District in particular and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general. In Chitral District, nearly 6.5 million tons of iron ore is found in areas of Booni Zom, Dammel and Nissar.  Chitral District has been connected through Lowari tunnel, which has made it easier for the locals to transport goods from Chitral to the rest of the country. The district also has non-metallic minerals such as marble, granite, gemstones and soap stone. Chitral block has more than 1000 million tons of marble available in the district and it also has gemstones which include beryl, tourmaline and topaz-garnet.19
CPEC projects will boost Chitral District’s economy by helping to develop its local industries like mining, and food processing industry. The district needs heavy foreign and local investment in the mining sector, because it has a great opportunity for extracting precious metals including platinum and palladium. The mining industry in Chitral will help to expand their economy by including other sectors. Chitral’s economy is mostly dependent on mining, agriculture, energy and tourism.20
These metallic minerals will help Chitral District to supply raw materials to different industries such as the supply of raw materials like platinum, neodymium, niobium, zirconium and molybdenum. These minerals are used in industries like agriculture fertilizers, surgical instruments, equipment used in hospitals like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, and electronic industry. 
The metallic minerals that are found in Chitral include platinum, gold, molybdenum, barium and other minerals. These metallic minerals are used in different sectors of civil industry including dental equipment, telecommunication, home appliances, electronics, sanitary fittings and automobile sectors which will the benefit the economy of Chitral and also Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general. 
Minerals play an important role in the development of economy of any country including advanced industrialized nations like the United States. These minerals are used in every industry including automobile, mechanized agriculture, housing, information and communication technology, shipping, energy and railways. 
The major economic benefits to Chitral from the CPEC projects will be that every product will be produced inside Chitral and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which includes mobile phones, laptops, dental equipment, cars, trucks and renewable energy equipment. It will also help Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to develop solar panels and wind energy turbines to reduce the energy shortage within Pakistan. There are challenges in the development of mining sector in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. CPEC project will help provide the opportunity in the development of mining sector in Chitral, especially with the launching of antimony mineral mining. 
Developing mineral mines in Chitral will be the first step which will pave the way for the development of other mines such as expensive minerals like lutetium and platinum. These minerals will help to support other industries like cottage industries, automobile, shipping, housing, transport and medical and dentistry equipment. Chitral District can earn hundreds of millions of dollars from exporting these minerals in the form of finished goods within Pakistan as well as outside the country.


The writer is a graduate of NDU. He does regular research on rare strategic minerals, and is currently based in Islamabad.


1 District Chitral (Upper and Lower) Local Government, Elections and Rural Development Department, www.lgkp.gov.pk 
2 Calkins, James A. Jamiluddin, S., Bhuyan, Kamaluddin and Hussain, Ahmad, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Chitral-Partsan Area, Hindu Kush Range, Northern Pakistan, Geological Survey Professional Paper 716-G, Prepared in cooperation with the Geological Survey of Pakistan, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State and the Government of Pakistan, United States Government Printing Office, Washington 1981. pubs.usgs.gov 
3 Ibid.
4 Metallic Mineral Blocks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Mines and Minerals, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment and Trade (KPBOIT), March 16, 2021, www.kpboit.gov.pk 
5 Ibid.
6 Business Opportunities in Mineral Sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan: Follow-up Exploration Targets, Metallic Minerals including Precious Metals and Gemstones, District Chitral, Investors Information Package, Exploration Promotion Division, Directorate General Mines and Minerals, Minerals Development Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, February 2014, www.kpminerals.gov.pk 
7 Ibid.
8 Huge metallic mineral deposits found in Chitral, Chitral Today, January 20, 2020, www.chitraltoday.net 
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid. 
11 Gaetani, M., Le Fort, P., Tanoli, S., Angiolini, L., Nicora, A. Sciunnach, D. and Khan, A, Reconnaissance geology in Upper Chitral, Baroghil and Karambar districts (norther Karakorum, Pakistan), Original Paper Geology Rundsch (1996) 85:683-704 Springer-Verlag 1996, Retrieved in 2021.
12 Ibid.
13 Khan. Mohammd Zahid, Arif, M. and Moon, Charles J, Mineralogy and geochemistry of leucogranite from Miniki Gol (Chitral), Northern Pakistan: Implications for Petrogenesis and Mineralization, Arabian Journal of Geosciences, ISSN 1866-7511, September 2014, Retrieved in 2021.
14 Zafar, Mohammad, Murata, Mamoru, Khan, Tahseenullah Ozawa, Hiroaki and Nishimura. Hiroshi, Major and trace element compositions of post-collisional, peraluminous Garam Chashma granite, Hindukush Range, Northern Pakistan, Journal of Mineralogical and Petrological Sciences, Volume 95, page 173-181, 2000, Retrieved in 2021.
15 Government proposes 29 industrial parks, 21 mineral zones under CPEC, The News International,  July 26, 2015, Retrieved in 2021, www.thenews.com.pk 
16 Chitral CPEC Link Road From Gilgit, Shandor, Chitral to Chakdara, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, Government of Pakistan, www.cpec.gov.pk
17 Mineral Sector of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, Retrieved in 2021, www.gilgitbaltistan.gov.pk
18 Ibid.
19 Sarwar, Khurram and Rahman, Masood U, Economic Impact of Mineral Resources: A Case Study of District Chitral, Pakistan, Journal of Resources Development and Management. ISSN 2422-8397, Vol. 17, 2016 International Institute for Science, Technology and Education (IISTE), www.core.ac.uk 
20 Chapter 2: The Economic Profile, Chitral Growth Strategy: The Chitral District Government in collaboration with Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, September 2017, Retrieved in 2021, www.ppaf.org.pk


 

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