By Sudarshan Varadhan
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Pakistan’s largest coal miner Sindh Engro Coal Mining Co (SECMC) expects to boost its output by 51.3% in 2024, its Chief Executive told Reuters, as the south Asian economy seeks to reduce imports, cut fuel costs and shore up its finances.
Faced with a crippling foreign exchange crisis, the Pakistan government is trying to preserve its depleted foreign exchange reserves and cushion itself against geopolitical shocks.
SECMC aims to help by boosting coal production to 11.5 million tonnes in 2024, from an expected 7.6 million tonnes this year, its CEO Amir Iqbal told Reuters on Friday.
The company will seek to push power plants currently operating fully on imported coal to use 20-25% domestically mined coal, Iqbal said.
“We have done some initial work (on imported coal-based power plants). It is very much possible,” he said.
SECMC has funds to finance the expansion of mining for 2024, but faces challenges in boosting output after that as Chinese lenders have stopped funding coal projects, Iqbal said.
“That is one challenge for which we are seeking support from the government of Pakistan. They need to come up with some financial instrument so that we can continue expanding,” he said.
The country of more than 230 million people depends chiefly on natural gas to produce electricity, but has been looking to boost coal-fired output to save costs.
“The other very big area is the cement industry, which is 100% imported-coal based. If we start to penetrate into that area, we can start to replace imported coal,” Iqbal said.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Barbara Lewis)