Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has ordered an investigation to unearth irregularities in the issuance of licences to foreign companies for exploitation of minerals in Balochistan.
Advocate General Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal apprised the court that the provincial government awarded licences to ten companies for exploration of minerals.
The first licence was issued in 1993 by the then governor. The ten companies earned $60 million in profit but they did not cede a penny to Balochistan. The licences of eight companies expired in August 1998.
The governor is not the competent authority to issue licences for exploration, the bench observed. “The country’s natural resources belong to the people,” the chief justice said.
The chief secretary has ordered an investigation to identify the officials responsible for the irregularities, the AG informed the court.
A four-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Chaudhry and comprising Justice Ghulam Rabbani, Justice Sair Ali and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday was hearing petitions filed by 26 Senators challenging the Tethyan Copper Company’s contract for excavating gold and copper from the Reko Diq mines in Balochistan.
The company’s licence will expire on February 20. If the licence is not renewed, a new agreement will have to be concluded for it to mine Reko Diq, Mengal submitted.
The chief justice directed AG Balochistan to take a decision on the renewal of Tethyan Copper Company’s licence based on its feasibility report before it expires.
Raza Kazim, the counsel for the late Maulana Abdul Haq Baloch, said that according to the law, the government cannot enter into a joint venture for exploiting Reko Diq’s resources. The court adjourned the hearing of the case till July 31.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2011.
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