ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will earn $2 billion a year if it were to mine and refine gold and bronze from Reko Diq, whereas if a foreign company is awarded the contract, it will only get $160 million in royalties.
Renowned nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarikmund, Chairman of the Board of Governors of Reko Diq and member Planning Commission, said this to the Supreme Court during the course of hearing of a suo motu case.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, heard the case. Dr Mubarikmund informed the apex court that a foreign company, Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), has been awarded the lease of an area spreading over 400 square kilometres for mining.
It has discovered reserves worth $104 billion to-date in an area of six to seven square kilometres. If it were to exploit all the reserves, they would yield precious metals worth trillions of dollars. He said these facts were taken from the feasibility report on Reko Diq, comprising thousands of pages.
Pakistan has the requisite expertise for extracting and refining gold and bronze from the Reko Diq mines. It is just the 0.02 per cent uranium which is difficult to exploit. TCC wants to export the gold and bronze in liquid form, he added.
At present Balochistan is receiving $160 million whereas it can earn $2 billion if Pakistan were to extract the metals and export them after value addition. He said the money would change the fate of Balochistan.
TCC’s economic advisor, Dr Zubair informed the court that his company, the fifth largest in the world, will invest $3 billion in Pakistan.
Despite the scarcity of investment opportunities in Pakistan, TCC has invested $406 million to-date, the benefits from which have devolved to the people of Balochistan, he said.
“Do not condemn the government; Pakistan is an independent country,” the chief justice remarked.
DG Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Irshad Ali apprised the court that former premier Shaukat Aziz had constituted a committee comprising five federal secretaries to review the terms and conditions of the agreement with the company on November 3, 2007. The deal was shelved however because the government wanted a five per cent royalty while the company was willing to offer it two per cent.
If the company is to export the metals in liquid form how will the quantity of the gold and bronze extracted be determined along with the cost, questioned Justice Ramday. The quantity of precious metals in Reko Diq is on record. If there is an increase in production, all the parties will get an equal share. The court later adjourned the hearing of the case till today (Thursday).
Published in The Express Tribune January 13th, 2011.