ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has approved a proposal to acquire latest equipment worth Rs 415 million for mapping the country's hidden minerals and natural resources.

"Under the proposal, Rs 415.807 million have been earmarked to acquire four drilling rigs and their accessories for the Geological Survey of Pakistan," official sources in the ministry told APP.

They informed that the geological mapping of 3,200 square kilometers on 1:50,000 scales had been completed in different parts of the country, including 640 square kilometers each of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Northern Areas and Gilgit-Baltistan.

"While, collection of the data, geological maps, topo sheets and digitalization of the maps is under process," they informed.

The Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), the sources said, was striving to explore natural resources for uplifting the national economy.

According to recent geological investigations, 185 billion tonnes of coal reserves exist in different parts of the country, which could be used as a primary and inexpensive source for power generation.

"More than 184 billion tonnes 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," sources told APP.

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 digging was being done to explore and evaluate coal deposits in Musakheil, Kingri and Toisar Basin, Musakheil district, Balochistan.

Answering a question, they said the mining and quarrying sector grew by 0.6 per cent in 2015-16. "Estimates suggest there are copper reserves of 1.9 billion tonnes and 11.2 million ounces of gold in different localities."

They admitted that the primary reason for not getting maximum benefit of the natural resources was the application of out-dated technologies, poor management 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 kilometers and 92 known minerals, while 52 are commercially exploited.

Presently, the sources said above 5,000 operational mines and 50,000 small and medium enterprises were producing average 68.52 million tonnes per year and providing direct employment to 300,000 workers.