The marble industry is in great trouble and about 650 marble quarries have closed during the last two years in Balochistan, owing to disputes amongst different government departments and the prevalent law and order situation.
The Ministry of Industries and Production and Mineral Department of Balochistan locked horns and caused huge losses to the industry. For instance, marble units in Karachi are facing a loss of Rs20 million per day due to shortage of raw material. The city requires about 10,000 tonnes of marble per day. About 350 small and medium sized marble factories have finished their night shifts in Karachi only, which has resulted in reducing 15 to 16 thousand jobs.
The marble association pointed out that the Mineral Department of Balochistan is also bearing a loss of Rs6,00,000 per day as the quarry lease fee for the last two years has not been received. Presently, 1,300 natural stone mines are in operation and over 2,000 processing units are producing value added products in the country.
Mining and quarry sector contributes nearly 0.6 per cent to GDP with a value addition of more than Rs16.5 billion. Exporters demanded that government should help in obtaining finances from financial institutions on a concessionary basis and on priority to the marble sector. This would help stakeholders to utilise their capacities to the maximum level.
The government has set an export target of $60 million for 2011 and $100 million for 2012 that would be not difficult to achieve, if it pays a little attention to solve problems, said exporters.
In spite of all odds, during July-April 2011, marble export reached $42.65 million showing an increase of 80 per cent, as against to $24.18 million during the same period of 2010. It was claimed by the association that exporters not only achieved the export target but also surpassed it and earned $60.62 million during 2010-11 that displayed 72.3 per cent growth. The export quantum of marble and granite was $40 million during 2007-08. Officials indicated that investors from Italy, European countries including UK, Saudi Arabia, Korea and China have shown an interest and desire to establish joint ventures with Pakistani counterparts.
Due to the fine quality of stone available in the country and expertise in manufacturing finished products, exports can be enhanced to a much higher level. The country could benefit by exporting of all kinds of marble products to Qatar, Middle East and Saudi Arabia. There is also a rising demand in India. The comparison of price of the value of dimensional stone, square block, with stone extracted by conventional methods shows that square blocks have 70 per cent more value than conventionally extracted stones. Therefore, the earning ratio is rising with the adaptation of mechanised quarrying.
All natural stones including marble, granite and slate that can be cut to different sizes, polished and used for construction purposes are called dimensional stones. Each of these stones represents a family of similar stones, with various combinations of different minerals. The major distinction is made on the basis of their base minerals which are calcium compounds (calcareous) for marbles, silica compounds (siliceous) for granite and shale clay for slate. The major products of dimensional stone are marble and granite, however; onyx and slate are also used in the dimensional stone processing industry.
Marble is a crystalline, compact variety of metamorphosed limestone, consisting primarily of calcite (CaCO3), dolomite (CaMg (CO3)6) or a combination of both minerals. Pure calcite is white, but mineral impurities add color in variegated patterns. Extensive deposits are located in Italy, India, Pakistan, Spain, Greece, Brazil, China, Afghanistan, Turkey, Great Britain, and in the United States. Commercially the term marble is extended to include any rock composed of calcium carbonate that requires polish, including ordinary limestone. The term is further extended to include stones such as alabaster, serpentine and other soft rocks. Marble is a durable stone in dry atmosphere only when protected from rain. The surface of marble crumbles readily when exposed to moist or acidic environment. Purest form of marble is statuary marble, which is white with visible crystalline structure. The distinctive luster of statuary marble is caused by the reflection of penetrated light from the surfaces of inner crystals.
Granite is igneous rock of visible crystalline formation and texture. It is composed of feldspar, usually potash feldspar and oligoclase and quartz, with a small amount of mica and minor accessory minerals, such as zircon, apatite, magnetite, ilmenite and sphene. Granite is usually whitish or gray with a speckled appearance caused by the darker crystals. It is mainly preferred for its use in the exterior applications.
Variety of colors in Granite is traded in the world market with different price tags. High price is fetched for the rare colors including Jet-Black, Pearl Blue and Deep Green. These colors are found in South Africa, Brazil, Norway, India and Pakistan. Granite has greater strength than sandstone, limestone or marble and is correspondingly more difficult to quarry. It is an important building stone and its maximum usage is in the external and internal flooring.
Similar to most of the other forms of marble, it is composed of compact rocks of carbonate nature of sedimentary origin formed through chemical precipitation usually in underground cavities. Generally found in the form of big lenses and patches with a low relief. If crystals are particularly large to some centimeter and visible to the naked eye, these rocks are known as alabaster.
Onyx is mostly green in color with fine texture, nevertheless bands and patches of red, brown and white are common, with rare patches of golden. Green variety is more valuable because it is used for special works in many parts of the world. Major deposits are located in Mexico, Iran and Turkey with best green variety in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan is blessed with huge reserves of marble and granite that are yet to be exploited. More than 100 types of colours and varieties of marble and granite are found in Pakistan. Therefore, there is an urgent need to invest in mining for creating job opportunities and raising exports. Pakistan has huge quantity of marble and granite reserves, besides onyx, table-1. The Marble is one of the emerging industries of Pakistan and has great potential to expand export many fold but the government is not serious to solve the problems, the exporters complained.
The known stone deposits are about 1 billion tonnes and estimated deposits are over 10 billion tonnes. Though there are approximately 1,500 mines producing stones for about 4,500 small to large units across the country but none of these mines are operating on modern methods and manufacturing facilities. Thus they are unable to produce products that can meet international standards.
Moreover, there is a lack of well defined policy, there is shortage of warehouses in the country therefore government should establish a warehouse in Dubai, as the Gulf Region has great demand for Pakistani marble and Dubai may be a hub station.
International marble and granite trade was valued at $2.5 billion in 2005, with production of about 19.6 million tonnes. Italy is the world leader in marble, granite and stone sector, exporting over 38 per cent of finished material.
Worldwide natural stone extraction was estimated at 150 million tonnes per year. The annual production, after deduction of waste and cutting losses, was estimated to be about 820 million square meters with a slab thickness of 2 cm.
Globally, the natural stone industry is growing rapidly. Since the beginning of the 1990’s, production has risen 7.3 per cent and average increase in trade per annum was 8.7 per cent.
The stone processing of dimensional stone is being done with different levels of technology in different countries but a few leading countries such as Italy, China, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany, France, USA and Greece have developed highly efficient technology with good forward and backward linkages. India has also improved this sector considerably in the last two decades. Consumption in over 50 countries of the world has increased use of dimensional stone significantly.
The quarrying and working of stone already practiced in ancient times by the Egyptians and Greece has seen greater development in Italy under the Romans. But by the end of the 18th century, economic activity in the stone sector developed for the first time with the invention of gunpowder and the use of mechanical cutting.
Dimensional stones are produced in more than 42 countries of the world while 12 of these producers are dominant in the international market, 6 European countries and 3 each in Asia and Africa.
Technological advances in the last 70 years have increased world production and consumption of dimensional stones to 150 million and about 8.8 billion square feet, 820 million square meters, respectively, The industry generates a turnover of $40 billion. The majority of world consumption comes from quarried in different countries rather than those where it is installed. The leading producers, China, India, Italy, Spain and Portugal account for 53 per cent of world quarrying production.
World trade is just 29.6 million tonnes and equal to about 4.8 billion square feet and has reached $8.6 billion in 2004 with an annual average increase of 13 per cent. China has shown the largest increase in its export value, about 28 per cent per annum over the 4 years.
Italy, China and Spain are major players in the world market and exported more than 55 per cent of the dimensional stone’s products, blocks and processed, by value. Other major exporters include Brazil, Spain, India, Turkey and Portugal.
Major importers of marble products are Italy, USA, Japan, Germany, Italy and China and more than 60 per cent of the products go to these countries.
Pakistan produces over 1 million tonnes of marble per annum, of which less than 10 per cent is exported, that is 0.03 per cent of the world trade. China is the biggest importer of raw and finished marble slabs and tiles and imports nearly double that of USA in the world.
Province wise reserves include Balochistan, Sindh and NWFP having marble, limestone and granite, Punjab having limestone and Northern Areas and FATA having granite and marble.
Major categories for usage of dimensional stones are architectural works, funeral trade and sculptures etc. The total share of the dimensional stone is 70 per cent.
Processing industry is using wide array of technological options for basic as well as finishing stage, all are of old age. Due to technological imbalance, wastages are about 52 to 55 per cent.
Presently, the processing industry is based on locally manufactured machinery and equipment; a few units have high efficiency machines imported from foreign countries.
The tiles manufacturing units of marble on the basis of its abundant availability in the country can be set up. The process technology is simple and the investment cost is also comparatively low, besides it is a labour intensive industry provides jobs to a number of locals. Its export has high potential in countries where the construction of high rise buildings is brisk with the progress towards urbanisation or where urbanisation is projected. It is expected that the export of marble would increase over a period of time.
PASDEC is trying to evolve a mechanised quarrying system that include diamond wire saw, chainsaw machines for precise cutting and bench quarrying. The objective is to discriminate blasting and reduces wastage of natural stones.
Despite having great potential in the mining sector, investors are reluctant to come forward and invest especially in the province of Balochistan due to the law and order situation.
The exporters are demanding a 10 per cent rebate on exports of value added marble products. Moreover, to enhance export of value added products quota system should be made for raw material exports. Besides, all commercial counselors of Pakistani embassies should provide latest information to TDAP about marble and granite imports in their respective countries.