Except for petroleum and natural gas, mineral reserves in Pakistan were meager and of poor quality. Chromite was one of the few valuable minerals available; production of chromium content rose to 12,080 tons in 2000, from 3,998 in 1998. It had previously risen from 1,090 tons in 1988 to 10,380 in 1991. Construction materials were a leading industry in the country. In 2000, small quantities were produced of aragonite; barite; bauxite; bentonite; celestite; chalk; dolomite; emery; feldspar; fire clay; fluorspar; fuller's earth; crude gypsum; kaolin (china clay); limestone and other stone; crude magnesite; marble; nitrogen, in ammonia; phosphate rock; natural mineral pigments; rock and marine salt; bajir, common, and glass sand; caustic soda; soapstone; strontium minerals; native sulfur; and talc and related materials.
Pakistan's inadequate infrastructure, poorly educated workforce, and pervasive violence have been major obstacles to attracting foreign investment. The Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources invited the Iranian government in 2000 to invest in copper exploration and development, and to manage the mothballed Saindak copper-gold-molybdenum-silver mining and metallurgical complex, in Baluchistan's Chagai Hills. Also interested in acquiring the Saindak project were China—whose China Metallurgical Construction Corp. built the mine and plant—and BHP of Australia; mining stopped at Saindak in 1996. BHP and Australia's Mincor Resources formed an alliance to explore and develop large porphyry-style copper deposits in the Chagai Hills; the joint venture initially was to focus on the Reko Diq Complex, possibly one of the world's largest copper deposits with more than 7 million tons of copper and 342,000 kg of gold. The Geological Survey of Pakistan reportedly discovered a total of 400 million tons of commercially viable iron ore in Baluchistan and the North West Frontier (NWF), to be mined by open-cut methods. The NWF government was considering reviving the Swat emerald mine, at Mingora. The discovery of a large lowash, low-sulfur lignite deposit in the Tharparkar desert may increase the importance of Pakistan's coal.