Reko Diq project – take a decision before it is too late

Published: November 17, 2013
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The delay due to indecisiveness by the government made the TCC to shift its stance from specific performance to damages claim. PHOTO: FILE

The delay due to indecisiveness by the government made the TCC to shift its stance from specific performance to damages claim. PHOTO: FILE

CHAGAI: 

The CEO of Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) manages to wear local attire (shalwar kameez) for a meeting with the then chief minister of Balochistan. An hour prior to the meeting, I go and meet the secretary mines who is busy in other matters.

As he sees me: “Oh yes, we do have a meeting in one hour, let me call the section officer concerned to give me a briefing.”

A project of national importance is going to be discussed and the secretary wants to have a briefing of just a few minutes from his section officer before he goes for the meeting for a multi-billion-dollar project that could change the fate of the country and the province.

As the TCC team walks in, greeted by the then chief minister and seated, the meeting starts with the chief minister in his humorous style, saying: “We are going to do the project ourselves.”

At first, I thought that he was just joking but when he repeated the sentence three times, I could realise that it was the end of his humour. It seemed that all including the secretary finance and the secretary mines were taken by surprise. I, being the only person in that room who had physically monitored the execution of a similar project (Saindak copper and gold project), replied: “Sir, there is no way that you can do the project yourself and I can tell you why?” But he was not ready to listen.

Another meeting followed with a very senior officer of the government of Balochistan. During this half-hour meeting, we had no eye contact understood that perhaps this upright and honest man had to toe the line of his boss and did not want to say what he had to.

TCC, Saindak project and NFC award were discussed and my apprehensions expressed during this meeting unfortunately proved to be true as nowhere could be seen the kind of development against the amount of funds spent from the NFC award. Where has all that money gone?

The desire of the then provincial government to operate a copper project could have been a dream fulfilled by taking over the already operating Saindak project but this somehow never happened. The same running contract was simply extended rather than being negotiated for much better terms that could have become an additional source of revenue for the province.

This is where the previous government miserably faltered, on one hand, adamant on working on the Reko Diq project and on the other hand let the Saindak project slip away. Money for jobs further added to the agonies of the masses in Balochistan.

The delay due to indecisiveness by the government made the TCC to shift its stance from specific performance to damages claim. The country can face dire consequences and it can be devastating in case the decisions in international courts go against the government. The claim against damages could amount to billions of dollars and at this stage, the country is in no position to meet such a liability.

Although elaborated by the present CM on the floor of the house several times, there seems to be a very strong restraining factor that is not allowing the government of Balochistan to initiate fresh negotiations and an out-of-court settlement with TCC that could prevent an impending “calamity”.

While there is still time before the proceedings in international courts kick off in January 2014, the province should be allowed to take a decision unilaterally on merit before it is too late.

Deprivation in Balochistan is the main impeding factor and this project has the capacity to eliminate this deficiency.

It would be a wishful thinking for the present government to fix responsibility for merely extending the Saindak contract rather than it being negotiated for much better terms for the province or for the Saindak project being run by the provincial government instead?

At present, 1,250 Pakistanis with a supervisory staff of only 200 Chinese are running the Saindak project. Surprisingly, there have been no serious counter-checks or monitoring of the blister copper that is being exported.

In spite of the passage of 18th Amendment, it is yet to be seen that this amendment is implemented in letter and spirit in Balochistan in particular. However, if the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was religiously followed, it could transform into an effective mechanism to regulate centre-province relations, upholding the constitution, but the CCI is also being taken too casually.

The use of force combined with the centre’s denial of an absolute political and administrative autonomy and authority to the Balochistan government is further fuelling the grievances of the Baloch, thereby incapacitating the present chief minister in addressing their grievances and bringing them back to the political mainstream.

Although the chief minister has the acumen, the will and the desire to change the fate of Balochistan and its people, but this can only be possible provided entire trust is reposed in him by the centre and he is fully empowered to make this dream come true.

The writer is the former project director and deputy managing director of Saindak Copper Gold Project, Chagai district, Balochistan

Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Asad Khan
    Nov 17, 2013 - 11:58PM

    Not even a nice Try Mr. Ex Dy Project Manager.

    Pakistanis should be thankful to God Almighty that they being saved by these capitalists vultures.

    Just to give an “Insight”, TCC was pleading head to toe to in Tribunals for Licenses but when they realized that they got all the cards wrong they “switched” to monetary compensation. And even that cant be larger than feasibility costs / research costs, which Pak can manage easily through minor installments.

    Besides, Govt of Baluchistan wisely decided not to interfere in Saindak (which is running much smoothly as compare to other govt projects) and start a small but robust Balochistan Copper & Gold Project at itself.

    regards,

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  • S
    Nov 18, 2013 - 12:28PM

    The author really doesn’t talk about the terms of the deal which was the issue in the first place?

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  • abid
    Nov 18, 2013 - 7:56PM

    reko diq will never be explored just like we do not generate even 1 mw energy from thar coal………..but the major misfortune in both reko diq and thar coal happens to be a nuclear scientist who only bragged about 50,000 mw from thar coal and a trillion dollar export of coppers from reko diq. look!!!! what have we achieved ? not a single mw of electricity and not a dime from reko diq.

    no mnc will ever invest in reko diq.This is a fact.

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  • unbelievable
    Nov 18, 2013 - 7:59PM

    Interesting article – many Pakistani’s don’t have a clue about Reco Diq or that fact that the general consensus outside Pakistan is that the international court is going to rule against Pakistan and damages will be in the Billions. Nobody is going to touch Reco Diq with multi Billion dollar unpaid judgement hanging over the project.
    .
    Who in their right mind thought they could steal a major project from a sophisticated multi national mining consortium?

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  • Abdul Bashir
    Nov 19, 2013 - 7:44AM

    Hope you are will familiar with chagai magmatic belt, because worked as project director and deputy director of Saindak copper Gold project.
    The Chagai Magmatic belt start from Noshki to Taftan is 500kms long and 150kms wide, which have many copper/gold deposits. Reko diq is very small deposit compare to the chagai belt and there are many other international companies spouse to be start exploration work for copper/ gold in the area. Imagine how many people of Pakistan will involved with those international companies for exploration work. Many international companies were waiting for Reko Diq project to be start then they will start searching work for copper/ gold in the area
    Unfortunately, the decision of x-minister and cabinet was unprofessional and they condemned the entire chagai belt for Reko diq project which is in (7x7kms) area. Also damaged other deposits on the belt and employment of the area.

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