Barrick Gold will get ‘new licence' to mine Reko Diq

AAG tells SC despite cancellation of contract, no firm approached Pakistan for project because of court decision


Our Correspondent November 10, 2022
Empty trailers for housing workers at the site of the gold and copper mine exploration project of Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) are seen in this undated photo in Reko Diq, in Balochistan, Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that Barrick Gold Corporation’s previous licence for mining gold in Balochistan’s Reqo Dik area had been cancelled and it would now be given a new one.

A five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail resumed the hearing on a presidential reference on the project.

President Arif Alvi, on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, had filed the reference to seek the apex court’s opinion on the Reko Diq out-of-court settlement deal.

During the course of proceedings, the AAG, while continuing his argument, said the government should maintain transparency as a trustee in matters of public policy.

“Only the company with a prospecting licence was given the contract to mine it,” he added.

The AAG said the SC had declared the previous agreement for mining Reko Diq null and void because it lacked a proper feasibility report.

“A contract to mine minerals would be cancelled when the company that discovered them terminated it,” he added.

He said the mineral royalty was earlier 2%  and now 5%.

The AAG told the court that after the signing of the $900 million payment agreement with the Enterofista company, the issue of the penalty of almost $10 billion imposed on Pakistan by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be settled.

He contended that court decisions had stated that there should transparency while signing a contract with a company for a project.

He added that the court decisions did not mention that there could be no transparency in the projects without the process of bidding.

The AAG said that there were only a dozen companies in the world, including Barrack Gold, for mineral exploration and mining.

He said that despite the cancellation of the licence of Barrack Gold, no company had approached Pakistan for taking up the project of Reqo Dik because of the court’s decision.

The AAG told the court that the Balochistan Assembly was given a nine-hour briefing last year on the new Reko Diq contract. After the briefing, he added, the provincial assembly had made amendments to the relevant provisions in June this year.

He said there were numerous fundamental flaws in the previous Reko Diq agreement that had been removed in the new one.

During the previous hearing, Justice Munib Akhtar observed that the $10 billion fine imposed on Pakistan by the ICJ in the Reqo Diq case was a “nuclear bomb”, which could impact the country from anywhere in the world.

The chief justice observed that a consultative body should be formed to monitor the matters related to the new pact.

He added that the Centre was investing Rs1 billion in the project but it had given the authority for it to the provincial government.

The AAG informed the court that the Reqo Diq project would be executed with efficiency and transparency.

To this, the chief justice noted that the level of transparency in our country could be gauged from the fact that many files were approved by the cabinet “without even opening them”.

(With input from APP)

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