Every ounce of nickel vital for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has sizeable deposits of nickel – a silvery white, hard, and ductile transitional metal with a slight golden tinge.
The importance of nickel, with a multitude of physical and chemical properties, can never be underestimated. Indigenous extraction of this metal can earn huge socio-economic benefits for Pakistan, reports WealthPK.
Talking to WealthPK, Yaqoob Shah, Principal Geologist at the Global Mining Company, Islamabad, Member National Council for Marble & Granite and Minerals, and former general manager geology at the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC), said no specified nickel mining was carried out in Pakistan at the government level.
He said a sizeable quantity of raw material – containing nickel and chromite – was exported. Nickel and chromite are found in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Large fields are found along the western boundary from North Waziristan along the Pak-Afghan border, etc.
Yaqoob said nickel was found in plutonic types of igneous rocks, which solidified near the boundary of the earth’s crust and mantle. They are too dark-hued i.e., dark grey, dark green, and black when chromite is surplus.
“Iron ore, chromite, and nickel are found together. Rather than iron ore, nickel is never found without chromite. Such rocks are called ultra-mafic in nature. Minerals, e.g. pentlandite, NI-Rich natural silicates, and iron ore limonite are its principal sources. It is one of the four elements that remain ferromagnetic at room temperature,’’ Yaqoob added.
Chiefly, nickel is used in alloys, as an anti-corrosive plating, stainless steel manufacturing, foundries, rechargeable batteries of electric vehicles, coin making, etc. It is an essential nutrient for some microorganisms and plants. Its compounds are widely used in niche chemical manufacturing, as a catalyst for hydrogenation, rechargeable battery cathodes, metal surface treatment, pigments, etc.
According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Pakistan exported nickel worth US$2.09 thousand in the year 2021, while during the same year, Pakistan imported nickel worth US$770.31k in multiple forms, such as plates, sheets, strips, and foils, and in different quantities from various countries, including China, France, Finland, Japan, USA, the UK, and the UAE under the HS code 7506.
He said precious foreign exchange spent on exporting different products of nickel could be saved if any concerning indigenous industry was activated in Pakistan.
Talking to WealthPK, Taj Muhammad, Geologist and Assistant Manager at the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC), said no regular nickel mining was carried out in Pakistan at the official level. As a principal mineral, it is not mined or processed anywhere in Pakistan. Its chief source is pentlandite, an iron sulfide, and nickel-based mineral. But with the cooperation of a friendly country, studies have been carried out to extract about 75% of nickel from laterites which are found in sizeable quantities in Ziarat.”
By taking 2021 as the base year, the nickel market size of US$33.31 billion is expected to reach US$36.27 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 7.3% by the year 2028.
Pakistan must focus on developing its own nickel-based industry. The coordination and expertise of friendly countries, including China, can also be availed of in this regard. This will not only help boost Pakistan’s industrial sector, but also bring socio-economic prosperity to the country.