He said Punjab was rich in mineral resources which remained unexplored in the last 64 years.
“If these resources are explored and effectively used, we don’t need any foreign loan or grant,” Mr Sharif said at a contract-signing ceremony of an iron ore resource exploration agreement between the Punjab government and the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) here at the Hockey Stadium on Tuesday.
Iron ore reserves were discovered in Rajoa. According to the agreement, the Chinese company will give final opinion about the quality and quantity of the iron deposits under the land within 10 months. This agreement will pave the way for setting up first Pakistani steel mills in Punjab to be run with local iron.
Mr Sharif said the deposits discovered decades ago remained untapped until in 2007 when the then Pervaiz Elahi government awarded the contract to an American firm without inviting tenders. He said he had cancelled the contract after taking over as chief minister in 2008.
The ensuing litigation consumed more than two years. He said he pleaded in the court that it was Pakistan’s wealth which must not be looted under a shady deal.
Once the Lahore High Court revoked the stay order, he stepped up the process to use the deposits. He sacked three secretaries for delaying the process but the incumbent minerals secretary, Dr Arshad, completed the tender process in a transparent manner in eight months.
He said though the contract allowed 18 months to the MCC to complete the exploration but he had urged the company to complete it in 10 months so that a steel mills could be established shortly. He said the proposed mills would be one of the biggest steel mills of the world.
He said China and Saudi Arab were Pakistan’s friends. During his visit to China in February this year, China had announced a $32 billion investment in Pakistan’s power, transport, communication, Gwadar airport and other projects while Saudi Arab had provided much needed $1.5 billion as gift.
Many tents fell during the ceremony. Municipality workers, however, re-erected the bamboos and the ceremony continued in a smooth manner.
MNA Qaisar Ahmad Sheikh in his welcome address said the PML-N government had not only upgraded Chiniot from tehsil to district but also announced construction of Chiniot-Faisalabad Road and an air-conditioned bus service between the two cities.
He said Chiniot’s Sheikh clan had contributed to the national economy and 17 out of top 100 taxpayers of Pakistan belonged to the clan.
Punjab Minerals Company board of directors chairman Dr Samar Mubarak Mand said besides iron, copper, gold and silver reserves were also found in Chiniot.
The MCC is a consortium of three Chinese companies working in Pakistan since 1980. The consortium has also worked at the Sandak project in Balochistan.