ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan is producing 3.5 million tons (MT) coal and importing 4 to 5 MT coal every year to meet needs of different sectors like steel, cement and power generation, official sources in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said.

"The coal is imported mainly from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, South Africa and the US and consumed in steel and cement manufacturing and power generation units," they told APP. Commenting on domestic production, they said so far nineteen coalfields have been discovered in the country. The recent geological investigations have shown that around 186 billion tons of coal reserves existed in different parts of the country, which could be used as a primary and inexpensive source for power generation, they added.

The sources said that the provincial governments have granted more than 1,100 coal mining concessions to public and private sector companies to carry out exploration and mining operations in the licenced and leased areas.

"More than 185 billion tons deposits are located in Sindh, with Thar coal field being the largest followed by Thatta-Sonda, Lakhra and Jhimpir. The coal is lignite to lignite-A to sub bituminous B&C in character with an average heating value of 6000 BTU/lb," they said. Coal is primarily classified into four major categories, or 'ranks' like lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous and anthracite. One of the most valuable content of coal is its carbon content which supplies most of its heating value.

The sources informed that further investigations were being carried out to explore and evaluate coal deposits in Musakheil, Kingri and Toisar Basin, Musakheil district, Balochistan. Answering a question, they admitted that the primary reason for not getting maximum benefit of the natural resources was the application of out-dated technologies and inadequate capital besides security situation in some areas where the bulk of the mineral resources were located. The mineral sector of Pakistan is spread over 600,000 square kilometres and 92 known minerals, while 52 are commercially exploited.