ISLAMABAD, Feb 29: The Supreme Court ordered the secretary (minerals) of Balochistan on Wednesday to decide by March 3 an appeal moved by Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan (TCCP) against the rejection of a mining lease at Reko Diq.
“The decision on the appeal at the earliest is important for the reason that the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) has allowed 15 days to the Balochistan government to nominate an arbitrator in respect of the observation made by the Supreme Court,” observed a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The case will be taken up on March 5.
The court had on Feb 7 ordered the federal and Balochistan governments to request the ICC and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to delay nomination of arbitrators over the Reko Diq mining lease dispute.
The bench had taken up a plea by Dr Abdul Haq Baloch, one of the petitioners in the main Reko Diq case, seeking initiation of criminal proceedings against the Balochistan government for violating the May 25, 2011, order of the apex court.
The petitioner had also sought a restraining order against the provincial government from appearing before the international arbitration forums.
The ICC in Paris (France) is seized with the dispute between the TCCP and the Balochistan government over the latter’s rejection of mining lease to the former for exploration at Reko Diq.
The TCCP has also filed a request for arbitration at the ICSID in Washington (United States) against the federal government.
The TCCP is a Canadian-Chilean consortium of Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals formed to explore gold and copper at Reko Diq, a small desert town in Chagai district of Balochistan that sits over what is known as Tethyan copper belt.
The area has the world’s fifth largest deposit of gold and copper.
On Wednesday, the court was informed that the TCCP had submitted the appeal to the secretary (mining) against the Nov 15, 2011, decision by the director general (mines) Balochistan of turning down the mining lease.
“Any order passed by it in the instant petition is likely to cause prejudice to the case of either side; therefore, in the interest of justice, the court directed the secretary to dispose of the appeal by March 3,” the court said.
It also decided to issue notice to TCC-Australia at the cost of petitioner through fax, email and courier service.
The Foreign Office is required to assist in effecting service upon the company through its diplomat in Perth (Australia).
The TCC-Australia was made a party because it is one of the signatories to the alliance agreement with BHP Minerals International Exploration Inc and a component of the TCCP, which has invoked the jurisdiction of ICC against a prospective Reko Diq minerals licence.