Quetta (Pakistan): Pakistan’s resource-rich Balochistan province wants Chinese companies to kick-start a boom in its mining industry by including the sector into Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, a senior provincial mining official said.
Beijing has pledged $57 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship ‘Belt and Road‘ project that first focused on Chinese firms building roads and power stations but is now expanding to include setting up industries.
Mineral extraction is a deeply contentious issue in Balochistan, where many indigenous people are angry that the province remains Pakistan’s poorest despite its vast mineral wealth.
Much of the province’s population is suspicious of both foreign companies and the central government in Islamabad, while separatist groups cite exploitation of mineral wealth by outsiders as one of their main reasons for waging war.
Balochistan has a significant natural gas industry but large-scale mining has failed to take off. Foreign firms have been put off by security fears and a high-profile litigation case with Canada’s Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta over Reko Diq, one of the world’s biggest undeveloped gold and copper mines, in the province.
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