FACTBOX-Baluchistan - Pakistan's biggest but poorest province

Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:40am EST

Nov 25 (Reuters) - Separatist rebels in Pakistan's gas-rich Baluchistan province dismissed on Wednesday proposed reforms for ending their decades-old insurgency as insignificant and a trick.

The government's proposals include the cessation of military operations against the rebels, the release of detained activists -- except those involved in "terrorism" -- and payment to the province of $1.4 billion over 12 years in gas royalties.

For decades, separatists in Baluchistan have been waging a low-level insurgency for control of those resources, which they say are unfairly exploited by richer provinces.

Here are some facts about Pakistan's biggest but poorest and least-populated province.

(For main story, click on [ID:nSP537714])

GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHY

* Baluchistan is Pakistan's biggest province in terms of area but only has an estimated 10 million to 12 million of the country's 165 million people.

* It shares borders with Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north. To the south is the Arabian Sea. Quetta is the capital of the province, which has a fragile ethnic mix of Baluchis and Pashtuns.

* Pakistan's third port, built with Chinese help, is at Gwadar in Baluchistan.

ENERGY RESERVES AND INVESTMENTS

* Baluchistan is home to Pakistan's largest gas discovery at Sui, with gas reserves in excess of 10 trillion cubic feet, equivalent to 1 billion barrels of oil.

* With the lowest exploratory drilling density of all four provinces, Baluchistan could have major oil and gas reserves. Despite the lower exploration density, it has the second-highest gas reserves and production in Pakistan after Sindh.

* The province has enjoyed little success in commercial oil discoveries, and has the lowest share in oil production and reserves among the provinces.

* Some of the major foreign companies involved in oil and gas exploration in Pakistan are Britain's BP (BP.L), Italy's ENI (ENI.MI), Hungary's MOL MOLB.BU, Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI) and Malaysia's Petronas Carigali.

MINERALS

* Baluchistan has one of the largest copper deposits in the world. China's Metallurgical Construction Co. (MCC) operates the Saindak mine, which has estimated ore reserves of 412 million tonnes.

* Tethyan Copper Co. Pakistan Ltd., a joint venture between Canada's Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) and Chile's Antofagasta Plc (ANTO.L), one of the world's largest copper miners, has been granted an exploration licence for Baluchistan's Reko Diq site.

* The site's ore reserves, a mixture of minerals including gold and copper, are estimated at more than 4 billion tonnes. According to some estimates, Reko Diq has the fourth largest deposits of copper and gold in the world.

* The joint venture company, which has started a feasibility study, is planning multi-billion dollar investment over the next few years.

* In addition to metals, the province is also home to large deposits of marble, onyx and granite. According to industry officials, about 80 percent of the marble produced is exported to China.

* Officials say the Italian government has also expressed an interest in providing credit and grants for the upgrading of marble processing facilities in the province.

(Reporting by Faisal Aziz; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here) ((E-mail: faisal.aziz@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: faisal.aziz.reuters.com@reuters.net; Karachi newsroom: +92-21 3568 5192)) (If you have a query or comment about this story, send an e-mail to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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