Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif launches the Thar coal mining expansion project. Image Credit: Sindh government

Karachi: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, jointly launched the expansion project of the Thar coal mining project for energy production.

After inaugurating the project under the aegis of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), Sharif met local Thari women who work as dump truck drivers and take part in the open-pit mining operation.

Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, while briefing the PM and others at the launch ceremony at the coalfield site, said that a total of 52 Thari women worked as dump truck drivers.

Highlighting another aspect of women empowerment related to the Thar coal project, the CM said that 11 out of the total 13 reverse-osmosis water filtration plants for local villagers were operated by Thari women.

He recalled that the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari had jointly performed the groundbreaking of the Thar coal mining project on 31 January 2014.

He highlighted that the Sindh government had spent $750 million to build the infrastructure including widened road networks, bridges, and an airfield required for Thar coal mining.

Shah told the audience that the Sindh government had opted for public-private partnership for the Thar coal mining project as for the purpose it had 55 per cent shares in the SECMC.

He said that work had started under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to extract Thar coal. Initially a power plant at the mouth of the mine had been built for 660 Megawatts production of electricity based on Thar coal.

The expansion project will increase the extraction of coal from 3.8 metric tonnes per annum (MPTA) to 15.5 MPTA for increasing the coal-based electricity production to 2640 MWs by the end of 2022.

He said that so far 12,500 Gigawatt hours of electricity based on Thar coal had been supplied to the national grid.

The CM said the per unit cost of electricity produced through Thar coal was just Rs 17 while that produced based on imported coal cost around Rs 37.

He said the SECMC used to reserve two per cent of its annual profit for spending on the uplift of destitute Thari people. He added that Thar coal and electricity project had so far employed 3,033 local people. The proceeds from the Thar coal project were used to construct 23 schools providing education to over 4,000 local students.