Minerals Exploration & Development Organization / Frontier Works Organization (FWO)

Pakistan is considered as one of the most fertile lands in the world when it comes to its natural resources, which stretches from the mountains in North, starting from Gilgit, to the southern province of Baluchistan that follows a path along the western border. The country is endowed with extensive natural resources, especially minerals from tectonic metal and sedimentary basin. Pakistan possesses two rich metallogenic zones, famously known as Chagai-Raskoh and the Indus Suture areas. Other indigenous minerals found in the country include chromite, coal, marble, limestone, barytes, quartzite and iron ore, that are currently being exported but not to an optimum level.

Under the umbrella of Frontier Works Organization (FWO), the Mineral Exploration and Development Organization (MEDO) was established in December 2015, which acts as an engine for the development and exploitation of the huge mineral potential of the country. Along with this, MEDO also aims to support the large scale mineral development infra-structure and introduce legal mechanical mining in mineral sector of Pakistan.

Pakistan is fortunate to have a geological edge when it comes to its natural resources. The country has a vast collection of minerals deposits scattered all over the nation i.e. Gemstone, copper, gold, zinc, coal and other rare metals.

However, despite such a vibrant number of resources, the contribution it makes to the country’s GDP is merely 0.5 % which accounts to only 0.1 % of export that stood around 0.5 Billion USD in 2017.

This has been mainly due to the many factors that led to such a situation. Firstly, there is a lack of budget and financial planning for the mining and manufacturing sectors by the past governments and lack of security for the foreign investors or their investments. Secondly, the country lacks the modern skill, latest expertise, equipment or developed infrastructure to cater to such explorations. Moreover, a large portion of the mining in Pakistan is done illegally. To add to the situation the raw material which is exported in its unfinished form results in minimum profits that do not benefit either the state or its people. The same minerals are processed and then refined in developed countries that are further exported for bigger profit margins as finished goods. Finally, the most prominent reason for this stalemate is due to the prevailing corruption in the country’s administration where national interest is overlooked by the personal gains of a few individuals. These are the few main reasons why Pakistan has not been effective when it comes to utilizing its natural resources and therefore requires prompt action by all institutions at the national level to collaborate and devise an organization that focuses not only on the development of minerals resources but to educate and facilitate explorations in order to safeguard the country’s interests.

According to Pakistan Central Mines Labor Federation, between 100 and 200 labourers die every year in coal mine accidents. There are on-the-job risks of mining that include accidents like cave-ins, floods, gas explosions, chemical leakage to name a few. State intervention is direly needed to protect the miners. Hence safety hazard is another inhibitor of the development of this industry.

The Reko Diq mine has now become a test case for Pakistan’s ability to attract serious foreign investment to Pakistan as it struggles to stave off an economic crisis that has forced it to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout. Ten current and former provincial and federal government officials and mining sources familiar with the project in the Baluchistan region say the military has become the most important voice on the future of Reko Diq, which it sees as a strategic national asset.

With the rising issues faced by the mining sectors that diminished its development and growth, a prominent institution, known as ‘Frontier Works Organization’ (FWO) rose to the occasion and established Mineral Exploration and Development Organization (MEDO). FWO is a military engineering organization established in 1966 and it acts as the backbone of science and technology of Pakistan Army. FWO has developed into a strategic organization with the tremendous capability to deliver projects of national significance. In addition to numerous Hydel and mining projects, construction of Karakoram Highway, Central Trade Corridor through Waziristan to Afghanistan, Coastal Highway and now over 1000 Kms CPEC Roads are some of their signature projects.

MEDO is a subsidiary of FWO, established to institutionalize the mining sector by providing it with a legal mechanism to perform effectively and further enhance the development and exploit its huge mineral diversity. Under FWO and MEDO two pilot projects were launched, one in the North Waziristan (FATA region) and other is a Granite Mining project, which is located at Nagarparkar in Sindh that is now operational. These two initiatives have been the flagship projects which the organization undertook. Furthermore, MEDO is currently facilitating large scale mineral development of infrastructure to strengthen the economy.

Mineral Exploration & Development Organization (MEDO) has embarked on a journey to explore and mine precious metals and stones that are scattered nationwide. The main aim is to indigenize while adding value to the process, which will contribute to the welfare of its people.

Similarly, MEDO is currently working on Geological and Geophysical (G&G) exploration of Base Metals that is spread across three locations of Gilgit Baltistan i.e. Nazbar (20 Square Km) District Ghizer, Chillim (13 Square Km) District Astore, and Bunji (20 Square Km) District Gilgit.

The establishment of MEDO has assisted many organization linked to mineral exploration and development in order to mobilize their assets and potentials. Thus, MEDO established its first Headquarters Frontier Works Organization (HQ FWO) that are assisted by the Provincial Corps and Frontier Corps (FC) to provide security for the establishment and provides growth of the organization.

MEDO carries out important assessments regarding the technical and financial aspects while looking after the acquisition process as well for future potential projects. The institute is responsible for providing a platform to provincial clients that cater finalization of concession agreements among provinces in the country.

MEDO will also lead the mineral exploration that can support large-scale mineral development infrastructure in Pakistan under the umbrella of FWO. Therefore, two separate SVPC’s have been raised by the name of Degan Exploration Works (Pvt) Ltd and Karakoram Exploration and Mining (Pvt) Ltd that would facilitate greatly to the mining sectors.

Presently MEDO is involved Identification of new mineral resources that can be added to its lists of Pakistan’s exports which can resonate in the growth of its GDP. The organization is also in the process of adopting, latest exploration and evaluation techniques for exploration and exploitation of mineral deposits while using modern techniques of mining procedures including the usage of latest processing techniques and equipping better refining facilities.

Most importantly MEDO has developed state of the art research and development facilities and laboratories for the mining sector that could be useful in acquiring the in-depth knowledge of such expeditions. Furthermore, the organization has made arrangements of requisite funding from various foreign and national sources, such as foreign training institutes for the training and development of its human resource working in the mining sector. All these initiatives have created job opportunities for the general public that led to the improvement of social conditions of the local communities.

Other notable projects that MEDO has initiated successfully are the exploitation of the mineral resources of NWA, while MEDO obtained mining lease for Mohammad Khel Copper Mining Project (MKCMP) of 30 Sq Km area for 30 years. MEDO, the subsidiary of FWO, has also planned an open-pit mining project, which is up to the depth of 1325m and an additional installation of Copper beneficiation plant at the mouth of the mine is accomplished for 1500 MTPD.

Moreover, a Granite lease in Nagarparkar District Tharparkar, Sindh for 15 years by signing an agreement with M/s Kohinoor Marble Industries Pvt Ltd Karachi. The mining operation in for granite already commenced modernizing granite industry in Sindh while creating wealth through job creation that welfare the poor people of Tharparkar and finally another exploration license of 20 Sq Km area from Mines & Minerals Dept, GB. On 24 Jun 2019, Mines and Mineral Dept GB initiated a work order for exploration for a period of 3 years having an area of 20 sq Km at Chipurson Gojal, Dist Hunza.

MEDO, under the umbrella of FWO, is committed to revive the mining sector in the country which will not only add to economic growth of the country at large but will also benefit the local remote communities of the country through job creation and provision of concessions.



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About Hadi Bandial 15 Articles
Writer is the CEO of Mélange IT Solutions & The Asian Telegraph, an expert on Political Economy, & Director of Bandial Group.