Reko Diq Copper and Gold Mining: Issues & Recommendations

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1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE ISSUE:

“$260 billion gold mines going for a song, behind closed doors”[1]

Baluchistan holds a large portion of Pakistan’s energy and mineral resources, accounting for 36 percent of its total gas production. It also constitutes large quantities of gold, copper, coal, silver, aluminum, platinum and above all uranium, it also holds a potential transit zone for a pipeline transporting natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to India. Two of Pakistan’s three naval bases Ormara and Gwadar are located on the Baluchistan coast. Gwadar is anticipated to provide a port, industrial facilities and warehouses to more than twenty countries, including those on the Red Sea, in the Gulf, and in East Africa and Central Asia as well as India, Iran and China. Baluchistan because of its strategic significance has evoked much interest among players of regional politics.Today, the big challenge before Islamabad is to convert the strategic assets in Baluchistan into economic opportunities by starting different Mega and developmental projects. In this regard RekoDiqproved the most blowing issue these days. RekoDiq which is one of the world’s largest reserves of gold and copper was discovered at in the Chaghi area of Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province. According to development experts, some 12.3m tons of copper and 20.9m ounces of gold lie in the RekoDiq area. The copper-gold deposits at RekoDiq are believed to be even bigger than those of Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile.RekoDiq went under many foreign companies for the exploration purposes. The exploration license for the RekoDiq project was initially given to BHP of Australia in 1993, which included the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) in association with another Australian company, Mincor Resources. TCC was later sold to its current owners, Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada and Antofagasta of Chile. It is significant to reveal that a Chinese company, China Mining and Metallurgical Corporation (CMMC), has been mining copper in the area (Saindak) for more than a decade. Industry sources in Islamabad say that the Chinese company has also silently lobbied to secure the mining license for RekoDiq, as the reserves of the RekoDiq are four times larger than Saindak.However Pakistan was getting a ridiculous share from this project. Baluchistan was never happy by giving this project to a foreign company as they were not getting the justified royalty from the assets of its own land. For saving the country from “foreign exploiters”, the petitioner said that Pakistan should get an 80 per cent share and the mining company’s share should not exceed 20 per cent. This request was made in a petition filed in the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court by the Punjab president of the Watan Party, HashimShaukat Khan.

Later it came into news that the corporate bosses of two of the largest mining groups in the world have been setting meetings with Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister and the State Bank governor for pressing them to “quietly and quickly” hand over Baluchistan’s vast mineral treasure “worth over $3 trillion”.

After realizing the stake involved in the project Baluchistan Chief Minister AslamRaisani jumped in. Minister raised the voice that that the provincial government itself will run the multi-billion-dollar RikoDeq copper-gold project in Chaghidistrict.Recently the Government has handed over the control of the RekoDiq gold-copper project to Baluchistan. By doing so, the Government has won the hearts of many Pakistanis who think that the contract with the TCC of Australia had damaged the rights of the local public. Equally admirable is the determination of the provincial government in setting up relevant mining infrastructure, while transferring the responsibility to a galaxy of renowned scientists/researchers headed by Dr Samar Mubarakmand in exploring their own mineral wealth.

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