Aussie mining billionaire Forrest signs coal deal to end Pakistan slavery

Australian mining billionaire and philanthropist, Andrew Forrest, has made an informal deal with Pakistan to free about 2.5 million slaves in return for allowing his firm to convert billions of tonnes of cheap coal into much-needed energy.

The CEO of Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG), who made the announcement at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, said the agreement would give the Pakistani state of Punjab access to Australian technology that converts lignite coal into diesel.

In return, he said Pakistan has agreed to bring in laws that will tackle the problem of slavery, or bonded labour, in the Punjab province, home to more than 100 million people, reported The Australian.

Forrest says the technology, developed by Curtin University, has the potential to be cost-effective.

"Turning lignite to diesel is proved – so we have no doubt it's going to happen," he was quoted as saying.

The deal earned the approval of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sung its praises during a brief chance meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Davos.

According to the Global Slavery Index, compiled by Forrest's Walk Free Foundation, about 16 million people are held in slave-like conditions through debt and forced labour in Pakistan and India.

Image: Screengrab from YouTube