The presence of natural resources is a testament to the progress and prosperity of any region but ironically, the case is quite opposite with Gilgit-Baltistan. This hub of natural resources has been the most backward and ignored region of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is naturally a high potential and a resource-rich region for mineral and water resources.
In Pakistan’s political structure the Gilgit-Baltistan Region has always remained an anomaly. There are many contributing factors to political uncertainty. Among these is the conflict in Kashmir, as well as the geopolitics of the area in general.
Mineral Resources of Gilgit Baltistan
To understand the essence of resource extraction from GB, Gilgit-Baltistan’s resources need to be assessed. It covers an area of about 73,000 km2 and is surrounded by three world-famous mountain ranges. The Himalayas, the Hindukush, and the Karakorum.
The geology of Baltistan is characterized by a large number of mineral deposits, including metallic, non-metallic, energy minerals, stones of precious and size, and rocks of different industrial value.
In these mountains, almost all the minerals Pakistan currently offers to world markets have been found, including Topaz, Peridot, Emerald, Morganite, and Tourmaline, etc.
Natural Resources of Gilgit Baltistan
Industrial minerals, such as marble, china clay, feldspars, and serpentinite also are aplenty in GB.
A lot of surveys were conducted by different mineral companies in different time frames. That was also being surveyed in the past by N.A.M.D.C (Northern Areas Mineral Production Corporation).
The state sees this wealth as an opportunity that can enable it to pursue economic growth by expanding its mining sector. Mining in Pakistan is dominated by federal and provincial development corporations through the public sector.
Under Pakistan’s constitution, the federal government has jurisdiction over oil, gas, and nuclear minerals.
Provincial governments have authority over the production and processing of minerals and implementation of regulations (Pakistan Minerals Working Group 2013).
A provincial and special level Mineral Investment Facilitation Authority was established, and separate mining and mining departments were established in each province. Provide licenses and leases, collect fees and royalties, and manage mining operations.
Acknowledging this, the Government introduced special provisions to legalize informal mining in the mining legislation, which introduced the National Mineral Policy in 2013.
The policy focuses mostly on private and international investment, which is consistent with World Bank recommendations in its Gilgit-Baltistan Economic Report (World Bank 2011), which addresses large-scale mining and mineral sector management in Pakistan.
Natural Resources of Gilgit Baltistan
As per the Gilgit-Baltistan Department of Mine and Minerals, “Different aspects of National Mineral Policy have been implemented in the provinces to varying degrees but so far no major breakthrough in the sector has been achieved mainly due to the lack of infrastructure facilities in the mineral bearing areas and the high-risk nature of sector investment.
Under the constitutional structure, Pakistan’s government is responsible for policy formulation, geological data generation and goals for exploration.
Billions of dollars worth of minerals are in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Around Rs. 500 million gemstone values are extracted from Gilgit-Baltistan annually, and efforts are underway to explore other valuable minerals. Almost all valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan have gold and base metal reserves, it has been confirmed, but the lack of investment and oversight has meant that the region or its people have not benefited.
Because of the lack of oversight, it is alleged that a number of foreign companies have exploited more resources than allowed to the detriment of the local economy, with the support of corrupt officials. In addition to over-mining, the region is also facing the problem of illegal mining, which has a long history in Pakistan and has become an increasingly important source.
The absence of appropriate regulatory state, and the failure to develop a long-term strategy to harness the potential of the labor force, has led to its growth. The fact that this region has deposits of uranium and the likelihood of illicit smuggling of that mineral is troubling The locals have been accused of the position of Chinese mining companies that extract uranium without any restriction or control by the federal or local authorities.
From the point of view of governance, the region’s geology, combined with its unique geopolitics and its social-cultural distance from the central state, has created the context in which the informal mining of minerals and gemstones takes place. It is this integrated spatial sense of profound social and political uncertainty that enmeshes local livelihoods.
The blurry existence of the area’s political life means that the Central State’s new feudal or semi-feudal tendencies to exert control over livelihoods are resisted and thwarted. Community members who have taken risks by extracting and selling these resources to reap the benefits of local endowment oppose the intrusion of central regulation over what they see as a legitimate activity.
Natural Resources of Gilgit Baltistan
Gilgit-Baltistan has a long history of mining with mineral wealth which the local community has not known. This knowledge has existed for longer than the knowledge of the State and was used in a way that local societies coordinate the mining and allocate the proceeds.
In Pakistan, the central state and those belonging to the Centre have little or no productive knowledge of these communities’ livelihoods, which continue to portray them as dangerous and illegal. Clearly, social and political factors shaped the livelihood in this high altitude area, which has remained off the state’s radar for many decades.
The illegality identified by the State with such informal mining and those seeking such informal subsistence in mining shows the inability of the State to provide for its citizens;
And portraying their livelihoods as illegitimate allows nature to be attributed to determining the ungovernability. In addition to these issues, the minerals department of the region has also been accused of patronizing non-local companies with mining licenses.
This not only deprives the region’s people of access to their own resources but also has a detrimental effect on the region’s job creation. The lack of communication with the region and the federal government is also expressed through miscommunications that widen information gaps and perpetuate additional confusion as well.
It is also noteworthy that crude methods with indiscriminate blasting techniques are used for mineral excavation, including gemstones, which not only destroy this natural resource but also result in more than 75 percent of the total yield being wasted according to official sources.
According to the Pakistani Government, none of the country’s mineral-producing areas have ever enjoyed modern mining equipment, safety standards, or expertise in mining engineering. Many Pakistani miners currently use both surface and underground Chinese-made, gasoline-powered rock drills.
Not only does it damage the miner’s health but it also causes permanent ecological harm.
Mining activities in forest areas also led to heavy losses and increased deforestation and forest degradation.