Chagai is the mineral rich district in Balochistan. Major minerals found in the district include; onyx, marble, granite, copper, gold, silver, chromite, and pumice. The production of onyx has been on top for the past three decades except for the blistered copper. According to Directorate General Mines and Minerals Baluchistan, more than 308 mining leases have been granted to the private sector containing 225 prospecting licenses and 83 mining leases. Moreover, two large scale mining leases have been granted to multinational companies, including Saindak project to MCC and the ongoing controversial project of Rekodiq.
Marble, onyx and granite are found abundantly in District Chagai. The estimated reserves of marble are about 2.5 billion tons. The annual production of marble in district Chagai exceeds 648,000 tons worth more than one billion US dollars. Onyx, a dark green marble, found in Chagai is of superior quality, 15-20 million tons with an approximate production of 1,152,000 tons per annum. There are more than 15 mines of onyx marble, with yearly production of onyx in Chagai district approximately 468,000 tons, worth more than 56 million US dollar. Moreover, the annual production of granite exceeds 36,000 tons, worth more than 7 million US dollar.
ACCORDING TO ESTIMATES, 75% OF THE PEOPLE OF CHAGAI ARE LIVING BELOW THE LINE OF POVERTY AND LITERACY RATE IS 30%.
The mega project in Chagai is Saindak copper gold project. The Saindak copper-gold project was set up by Saindak Metals ltd, owned by the Government of Pakistan. Later on, the contract, worth 350 million US dollar, was signed for the development of Saindak copper-gold mine between China and Pakistan.
Despite these multi-billion projects yet the lives of the dwellers are pathetic. It is mineral rich district but only for the capitalists. According to estimates, 75% of the people are living below the line of poverty. The literacy rate of the district has not exceeded 30 %. The conditions of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure are deplorable. According to mines act 1923, each mining firm shall work for the betterment of the local citizens, which includes health, education and infrastructure but irony is that no one has heeded towards this. While some of the development funds for the District Chagai are consumed by rampant corruption of the influential class. The racism in Saindak project has anguished the lives of the local labors. The wages of local workers are not enough to meet their daily needs.
The birth of the unforeseen diseases in Chagai, such as, skin cancer, blood cancer, stomach ache and disabled children are the outcomes of the nuclear test on May 28, 1998. While people in other provinces celebrate this day with full zeal and zest yet no one cares for its inhabitants. After the nuclear test, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did several promises for the people of Chagai, regarding health, education and infrastructure but all were purposeless. The government’s modus operandi is to look after the resources not the people. The people of Chagai do not need a modern city but they need their basic rights. The silence of the media on the circumstances of district Chagai is matter of servitude.
This Article is written by Habib Baloch, previously published in Balochistan voices.
Writer is a graduate of Mining Engineering from UET Peshawar and a freelance columnist.