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September 17, 2001

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to abundant gold deposits

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NAs home to abundant gold deposits, published in DAWN dated September 17, 2001
Syed Shams ud Din

Gold deposits are in abundance throughout the Northern Areas, a geological survey of the region revealed.

The quality is deemed to be superior as compared to that found in other parts of the world. All that is needed is an innovative approach to derive maximum benefit, and adoption of consistent policies geared towards prudent exploitation of this precious metal to usher in a revolutionary transformation in economic terms.

Gold washing has been rife throughout the Northern Areas from time immemorial, but the process that has been and still is in practice is primitive and quaint, and does not yield tangible results.

Golg deposit samples extracted from different places in the Northern Areas were put on display at an impressive stall manned by officials of the Planning and Development (P&D) Department of the Northern Areas in Gilgit at the time of the Silk Route festival last year. These included deposits obtained from Bagrote valley.

The geologists manning the stall had proudly told visitors that the gold found in this valley surpassed that found elsewhere both in terms of quality and quantity.

They also said that the government was chalking out a comprehensive programme to implement a scheme to ensure speedy mechanization of the existing gold extraction process by providing cost-effective and easy-to-handle machinery.

For centuries, a local community has been involved in extracting gold from the dunes of the nullahs carrying gold dust in this region. These families, who live a nomadic life, have been raking the banks of the river stretching from Kohistan in the south up to Khunjrab in the north. But since their method of extraction is primitive, the results have not been compatible with the effort put in.

The proposed mechanization of gold extraction as envisaged above could well revolutionise the lives of these poor families and help them achieve prosperity, provided the machinery is made accessible to them on easy terms and conditions.

Exploitation of the gold potential in the picturesque Bagrote valley is made easy by the fact that a jeep-worthy road already exists right up to the identified place. There are wide prospects of similar other explorations inside the valley if the road from Chirah, the last destination, is extended northeast so that unhindered access is possible up to Gargooh on one side and Gutoomi pastures on the other.

Gold is also found in abundance in Shimshal valley although this valley has long remained cut off because of inaccessibility. Another place where gold is tipped to be found is Kondhill nullah between Raminj and Khudabad, and also Watwushk lying ahead of Misgar village.

Gold is also said to be found near Baba Ghondi shrine in Chapursan Valley. It appears that gold extracted from Hunza River originates from the above place.

The first Gems Expo in Rupal, Gilgit, last year during the Silk Route festival, afforded a golden opportunity to display and popularize the indigenous minerals. Its success was testified by the fact that the Northern Areas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NACCI) was encouraged to hold another expo in Islamabad and later on in Dubai. If these expos become regular features, they will attract international buyers.

Despite the arduous work, many locals go up the mountains in the summer when the snow melts in search of precious stones. These include people from the Haramosh tract in Gilgit and people from Nagar proper too. But, the absence of lapidary here has been a major setback in the trade. The facility could enable the stones found here to chiseled for proper marketing.

The area between Haramosh to Ghanche in Baltistan offers tremendous potential in mineral exploitation.

The defunct Pakistan Minerals Development Corporation (PMDC) once undertook projects in Baltistan with encouraging results.

The mountains in the picturesque Shigar Valley are also interspersed with diverse gem stones.

There is flurry of mining activity here in the summer by many locals from across the region despite the fact that there is no institution to provide guidance in the field.

The government has earmarked a sizeable amount for tapping mineral potential in the country. It is fervently hoped that a full-fledged department in this region be established so that systematic effort geared towards harnessing the vast mineral potential can get underway for sustainable development. 

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