Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow talks to the media alongside Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo.—APP
Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow talks to the media alongside Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo.—APP

QUETTA: The development work on the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project, initially starting with a $7 billion investment, will begin on Aug 14, the 76th Independence Day, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow disclosed on Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint press conference at Chief Minister Secretariat, they said the Reko Diq project — a partnership between the company, the provincial government and Pakistan’s state-owned enterprises — would be a gift for the province.

The presser came a day after the Canadian mining firm said it expected parliament and the Supreme Court to sanction its $6 billion out-of-court settlement on international arbitration to pave the way for a $7bn investment in Reko Diq.

The Reko Diq mine project will be developed in two phases, starting with a plant that will be able to process around 40 million tonnes of ore per year. It could be doubled in five years following the first production from phase one.

Project expected to create 4,000 long-term jobs

Mr Bristow said the project was expected to employ 7,500 people during the peak construction stage and would create 4,000 long-term jobs after the start of production.

Balochistan’s shareholding in Reko Diq would be fully funded by its partners and the federal government, which meant that the province would reap the dividends, royalties and other benefits of its 25 per cent ownership without having to contribute financially to construction and operation of the mine.

The Barrick Gold CEO said the company’s social contributions were currently estimated at around $70 million over the construction period, including upfront commitments of up to $3m in the first year after closing and up to $7m in the second year,” he said.

Besides, Reko Diq would advance royalties to the government of Balochistan of up to $5m in the first year after closing, up to $7.5m in the second and up to $10m per year until commercial production starts, subject to a cumulative $50m maximum of advance payments.

Subject to the updated feasibility study, Reko Diq is envisaged as a conventional open-pit and milling operation, producing a high-quality copper-gold concentrate.

In the press conference, Chief Minister Bizenjo said the federal government had agreed with the provincial government’s proposals regarding the Reko Diq project and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had accepted all the demands that pertained to protecting the rights of the people of Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022

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