HYDERABAD - The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) on Sunday made history after unearthing the first layer of indigenous coal from its open-pit coal mine in Thar Coal Block II in Tharparkar district at a depth of 140 meters (460 feet) below the surface.

The company's spokesman Mohsin Babbar informed that the machinery took out the first layer from an estimated 2.04 billion tons of coal resources in Thar Coal Block II after successfully de-watering the second acquirer.

According to him, the task had been achieved 5 months ahead of the schedule.

"The successful extraction of the first coal seam not only proves that Thar's indigenous coal is exploitable but could produce thousands of megawatts of cheap electricity for many decades," said Shamsuddin A Shaikh, Chief Executive Officer of SECMC, who earlier witnessed the coal unearthing at the bottom of the mine pit in Thar Coal Block II.

Congratulating the nation, especially the people of Thar, Shaikh said it was a matter of great pride for the nation that country's indigenous energy resource would play a key role in circumventing the current energy crisis.

"This is the moment for which all Pakistanis had been waiting for the past 25 years, ever since coal was first discovered in Thar" he underlined.

He thanked all the sponsors of that mega project, lenders, the federal government and specially Sindh government for providing complete support to make the dream of Thar coal a reality.

Commenting on the performance of SECMC, the CEO added that the company had completed 16 million safe man-hours while removing 90 million cubic meters of earth.

According to him, by saving 5 months of the scheduled completion around $110 million against the budgeted cost had been saved.

Sharing the future plans, Shaikh told that the company planned to rapidly expand the mine in Block-II to reach its optimum capacity to produce 5,000 MWs by 2,024.

That would extremely reduce the coal price making, Thar Block-II not only the cheapest block in Thar, it would also become the cheapest base load energy resource in the country with a power tariff of approximately 5 US cents per kWH.

He requested both the federal and provisional governments to put on hold the development of all other coal blocks in Thar till SECMC's Block II reaches its optimum capacity.

Commenting on the CSR work being done by the Company in Thar, Shaikh said that SECMC was committed to making Islamkot a developed town which attained the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2024.

Speaking on the occasion, Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, Chief Operating Officer of SECMC said that the coal in Thar was called lignite which was ideally suited for producing electricity.

"With a cumulative thickness around 26 meters, there were enough coal reserves in Block-II to produce 5,000 MW for the next 50 years," Rizvi said.

He said that the full-fledged coal supply will start from third quarter of 2018 and the first electron would be generated from the EPTL power plant by December, 2018.

The spokesman apprised that SECMC was a joint venture between Sindh Government and 6 private sponsors including Engro Energy, Thal Ltd, Habib Bank Ltd, Hubco, and two Chinese companies CMEC and SPIC.

He said SECMC was the largest public private partnership in Pakistan to explore and develop Pakistan's first open pit coal mine with an annual output of 3.8 million tons.

The entire coal production would be supplied to Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) which was establishing 2 power plants of 330 MW capacity each, he added.

The power plant targeted to start power generation before the end of 2018, he told adding that both those projects were part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and were being constructed in collaboration with Chinese contractors.