SKARDU, GILGIT and ASTORE are some mountainous regions in Pakistan where different minerals and gemstones have been producing for the past 40 years. These locations are known as geologically active locations, and they offer a great advantage to prospectors and gemologists to locate mineral and gem deposits with greater rock outcrops exposure.
These mountainous regions are blessed with various kinds of precious and semi-precious gemstones, but the sad fact is that this treasure of abundant hidden wealth is not being fully utilized for different political, social and financial issues. The biggest hurdles in this connection are lack of funding, inattention, lack of modern equipment and skilled labor.
These different mineral and gemstone producing areas of the country are deprived of the latest equipment of mining, engineers' expertise and usual safety standards. At present, Chinese made rock drills are being used by most of the miners on the surface as well as underground.
Without proper airing, miners often have to stop work when they cannot light a fuse anymore because of air pollution or lack of oxygen. There are 40,000 people working as miners in the northern areas of Pakistan, and most of them have been found with lung diseases that occur because of carbon monoxide poisoning and silicosis. But most of deaths occur because of burying in rock falls or from falling from some rock and all this indicates that safety standards are also required to be improve.
There is no trained staff which can provide first aid in case of some emergency. Most of the time, miners could be seen climbing the mountains without proper climbing techniques, as they don't have proper mountain climbing equipment. Most of them are also not aware of extreme mountain climbing techniques.
These miners are not only using old drilling equipment, but they are also not fully aware of the latest blasting and drilling techniques and there is a dire need to improve these techniques. According to some reports, miners often seem to drill one to three holes in one round and they can't make more than a 30cm tunnel in a day most of the time.
With such drilling they succeed to make only 45cm deep holes, as petrol drill is used that is considered a proper drill only to drill vertical holes, and it is often not suitable for horizontal drilling. The miners must use a proper drilling pattern and it can be quite beneficial if they drill horizontally than vertically.
Pakistan can be leader of gemstone industry in this region if proper attention is given to improve mining techniques and equipment. It's, indeed, a trillion dollar industry, but just like many other fields in Pakistan, it's a victim of self-interest and inattention.