KARACHI - Rejecting the claims of Federal Minister for Water & Power that Thar coal is not viable for power generation, Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Innam Memon said that the quality of Thar lignite coal is at par or even better than the lignite mined in other parts of the world, including India. In a statement issued on Sunday, the minister said the impression that Thar coal is not viable for mining and power generation is based on misconception and lack of knowledge. Referring to a statement of federal minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, he said that renowned international companies, such as the RWE Germany, Oracle Coalfield UK, SRK United Kingdom, Sino Coal China, North East Coal Bureau China and China Coal Technology & Engineering Group, had done detailed feasibilities in Thar and all of them concluded that Thar coal mining was technically, economically and environmentally viable. He told the media that at present, three companies, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, Oracle Coalfields UK and Sino-Sindh Resources China, had completed their detailed feasibility studies and their projects of ‘open cast mining’ were expected to start this year. “These projects have total power generation planned in the first phase is 2100-MW by 2016. The Chinese Financial Institutions are ready to finance the Joint Venture Project of GoS-Engro provided Government of Pakistan commits Sovereign Guarantees for both Mining & Power Projects.” Memon also said that apart from these ‘open cast mining projects’, the Planning Commission, in July 2009, approved an R&D Underground Coal Gasification Project and engaged Pakistan’s most renowned scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand to develop a local technology and execute the pilot project.“The project is for production of Syngas from Thar and based on Syngas Power Plant of 100 MW can be established. The team of Dr Samar Mubarakman has successfully completed one Gasifier and carried out Test Burn in December 2011.” Memon said the planning commission conducted project appraisal in June, 2012 and decided that the pilot project comprising one gasifire (36 wells) would be operationalised for power generation of 8-10 MW electricity within a period of 10-12 months. “Funds amounting to Rs1.8 billion to cover the cost of gas purification plant, power generation units (8-10 MW) and establishment / O&M charges for one year are being provided by GOP. Out of these, Rs 900 million have been released recently. Recently, the GENCO, under a policy guideline of the Pakistan government, is converting its 800-MW RFO-based Jamshoro Thermal Power Station to coal and also setting up a new 600-MW coal fired power plant in Jamshoro, unfortunately these power plants are being designed on imported coal. Recent studies carried on Lignite Transportation confirmed that Thar Lignite can be transported via trucks or rail to other parts of the country. This has in fact broadened the scope of Thar Coal from integrated mine mouth power plant to utilizing the coal in power plants located elsewhere.” The Sindh government has requested the Federal Government that conversion of existing 800-MW and new 600-MW power plant in Jamshoro be designed on Thar coal specifications, GENCO should sign a coal off-take agreement with GoS-Engro Joint Venture Project and GoP provide sovereign guarantee for debt portion of Mining Project to the Chinese financial institutions. With this initiative, the 6.5m ton per annum coal mining project at a cost of $1.3b can be started immediately using its own equity till financial close of the project is achieved. There are no additional infrastructural requirements in Jamshoro. “The Sindh government considers that it would be a great tragedy if despite availability of huge coal resources in the country new power plants are based on imported coal requiring more than $ 600 million per annum. This will be a huge drain on precious foreign exchange and the price of coal will always be subject to international market fluctuation,” he concluded.