ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi gave the go-ahead on Wed­nes­day for filing a reference seeking the Supreme Court’s verdict on whether the government could revive the Reko Diq project or not.

The president gave his approval under Article 186 of the Constitution on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The apex committee, headed by the finance minister and the shareholders of Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), had earlier agreed to a framework for the settlement and revival of the Reko Diq project in March this year.

The federal cabinet, in a meeting on Sept 30, approved filing of the reference in the Supreme Court seeking answers to the following questions of law: first, whether a previous judgement of the Supreme Court, known as Maulvi Abdul Haque Baloch versus the Fede­ra­tion of Pakistan, the Constitution and laws, or public policy prevent the federal and Balochistan governments from entering into the Reko Diq agreements or affect their validity? Second, would the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promo­tion) Bill be valid and constitutional?

Media reports suggested the government would seek the court’s opinion on two questions: is the deal with the complainant comp­any, TCC, compliant with the apex court’s judgment in the Maulvi Abdul Haq case? And second, is the proposed Investment Protection Act compliant with the Constitution?

Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow had expressed hopes a few months ago that development work on the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would begin on Aug 14 this year.

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

The Canadian mining firm had 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 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 I.

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.

Barrick Gold had stated that the company’s social contributions were estimated at around $70 million over the construction period, including upfront commitments of up to $3m during the first year after closing and up to $7m in the second year.

Reko Diq would advance royalties to the provincial government 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.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022

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