AUSTRALIAN mining billionaire and philanthropist, Andrew Forrest, has struck an informal deal with Pakistan to do away with more than two million slaves in return for a chance to convert billions of tonnes of cheap coal into much needed energy.
Using Australian technology developed at Western Australia’s Curtin University, Mr Forrest has signed an agreement with the Pakistani State of Punjab to test the feasibility of turning currently uneconomic lignite coal directly into diesel for use in the energy-starved region.
In a linked agreement with Mr Forrest’s Walk Free Foundation, aimed at ending slavery, Pakistan has agreed to introduce laws to cut the practice of slavery through indenture, debt or inheritance.
Mr Forrest, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the agreement was an exciting development which could eliminate slavery in Pakistan and completely transform the Pakistani economy which was dependent on expensive foreign oil imports.
”The goal is energy independence for the Punjab and the eradication of slavery in all of the Punjab, a province of 100 million,” Mr Forrest said.
The Punjabi Chief Minister, Shabaz Sharif, welcomed the deal and said he was pleased to announce that the Punjab was the first province to commit to becoming the first Pakistani province to eradicate slavery.
Under the agreement, mining experts from Australia will investigate the possibility of using the Punjab’s huge deposits of lignite coal which is low-grade and not commercially viable at the moment. But if the coal can be developed through new technology at a cost of $US40 a barrel it can be used to produce diesel.
Mr Forrest, the chairman of the Fortescue Metals Group, said the eradication of slavery and replacement of foreign fuel would both help economic growth.
Mr Forrest said he had assurances from Pakistan that once the feasibility study was completed, and if the development was possible, there would be a transparent public process for tendering to establish the conversion of coal to diesel.
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