LAHORE - The Punjab Mines and Minerals Department would be dissolved and replaced by a company to carry out exploration.

It was decided at a high level meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif here the other day, sources said.

They said that Mines and Mineral Secretary Dr Arshad Mehmood had proposed restructuring of the department but the chief minister thought otherwise and directed that the department should be dissolved and a modern company be established.

A participant of the meeting told this paper that the company was being established after the reserves were discovered by a Chinese group — Metallurgical Cooperation of China (MCC). As per initial estimates about 500 million tons of iron ore, a primary ingredient in steelmaking and gold and copper mines in the area were found by the company.

Reportedly, the reserves were much more than those in Saindak and Rekodiq. Rekodiq reserves were spread over an area of 100sq-km and had just 0.6pc copper while the Chiniot reserves were spread over 2,000 sq-km and had more than 1pc copper. The new company would pace up speed for processing.

The participant said that the company would be set up under the Companies Ordinance 1984 which would be governed by a Board of Directors (BODs), headed by a chairman.

The CM also constituted a steering committee under the leadership of Minister for Mines and Minerals and other among the committee including Dr Aysha Ghaus Pasha, Nazar Hussain Gondal MPA, Additional Chief Secretary, Chairman P&D, ACS Energy, Secretary Law and others.

The committee would steer for revamping the organisation. The committee will also devise guidelines regarding HR restricting and modification and up-gradation of the regulatory framework for mines leases, protection of labor and work safety etc.

The CM further showed annoyance over non-compliance of his orders issued on October 12, 2013 that entire staff and officers of the department be transferred and replaced by personnel from private sector. No officer or official from the previous department is to be deputed or posted at any position in the company, the CM reiterated. He also ordered to hire fresh geologists and mining engineers in the organization besides ensuring their capacity building.

Moreover, foreign training for the private sector personnel hired in the company should be arranged with an undertaking to serve the government for at least for five years on completion of training. The CM also directed the chief secretary to present a brief of the regulation of crushed stone and process of issuing crush leases besides measures adopted to address irregularities in the stone crushing area.

On the CM decision to dissolve the directorate of mines, a wave of insecurity among officers and officials, technical staff and others is evident. Some of the officials conditioning anonymity disclosed that instead of dissolving the directorate and department of Mines and Minerals must be restructured.

They said that there could be no alterative for the experience and the old staff with such experience must be inducted.

They further said that in presence of Punjmin and PMC, there was no need for the new company and dissolve the fully established directorate. They said that if the company is being established to diminish the unnecessary bureaucratic control in leasing out mining contracts and to avoid red-tapism in such matters, the need was to restructure the department.

The Punjab Mineral Development Corporation (Punjmin) established in 1975 under the Punjab Mineral Development Corporation Act, 1975 has been functioning to execute the same in the province. The corporation owns and operates 27 leases in different parts of the province that produce coal, salt, gypsum, bauxite, silica sand, fire clay, dolomite and iron ore.

Reportedly, it earned more than 100 million net profits during the year 2013-14 plus contributed 100 million in the form of taxes to national exchequer.

The Secretary Mines and Minerals Department Dr Arshad Mehmood was not available for comments.