More than 100 licenses would also be issued soon and procedure of issuing licenses is being made simple for promoting exploration of minerals in the area.
At present, about 50 types of different minerals are extracted from the region that include gold, copper, lead and coal besides precious stones topaz, marble and granite which are not only valued in the country but their demand is rising all over the world.
Gemstones of Rs. 500 million value are extracted annually from Gilgit-Baltistan and more measures are being adopted to explore other precious minerals, Secretary Tourism and Minerals Department, Naib Khan told APP.
He said the natural resources if exploited properly cannot only fulfill the requirements of the region but would also bring handsome foreign earnings to the country through exports.
He said it has been confirmed that nearly all valleys in GB are shedding gold and base metals but the need is investment to explore them in order to change fate of the area.
Naib Khan said the area is also rich with white colour Marble deposits of Shigar (Skardu), Nasirabad (Hunza) and Gupis (Ghizer) which are considered to be of international standard.
To a question about identification of gold mines in Northern Areas, he said more than 11 sites of gold mines had already been identified in various parts of the GB.
About 15 firms including local and foreign are already busy in mining gold and copper in various areas which have been allocated to them for this purpose, he added.
Regarding amendments in the rules, these would be minor having incentives for exploration companies besides providing benefit to the locals.
According to proposed amendments, submission of monthly progress report to government with details of production of minerals will be made compulsory for companies, he said.
These amendments will also help in allocation of limited areas for exploration of specific minerals and stopping illegal mining of precious stones in various areas in all districts of Northern Areas.
Regarding promotion of tourism, he said measures are being undertaken to develop a clear regional tourism policy, promote a more diverse range of tourist activities (such as wildlife viewing and low altitude trekking), increase investment in communication and transportation infrastructure and develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, focusing in particular on the domestic market.
Active steps are also being taken to conserve the GB’s unique cultural heritage; amongst other measures, the Silk Route Festival has become an annual event, and key architectural and archaeological sites will be provided with legal protection under the Pakistan Antiquities Act.
Meanwhile, officials of the Northern Areas Gems Stone and Mineral Association said every year traders and stone specialists come to the region to buy stones worth millions of rupees. This is another matter that a pittance is paid to the locals as compared to the values of the minerals at the international market.
They said traders in the field were facing lots of problems in extracting and selling the mineral and called upon the government to ease the policy of visa so that the local traders can go out of the country easily and enter into trade in minerals to bring proper revenue. APP