ISLAMABAD: On being asked to identify the parts of its 2013 judgement in the Reko Diq case that supposedly resulted in the annulment of the earlier agreement, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman startled the Supreme Court when he divulged on Tuesday that after the verdict, the Balochistan government invested Rs4-6 billion to explore and mine gold and copper in the area, in vain, adding that Pakistan would incur a penalty of $10 billion if the project failed to materialise.
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a five-judge Supreme Court bench had taken up on Oct 18 a presidential reference on Reko Diq.
Reading out the judgement to identify the flaws the court had identified in the 2013 Maulana Abdul Haq Baloch verdict, the AAG also tried to explain that against the backdrop of a $10bn award, Pakistan had created a $900 million Escrow Funds to buy 50 per cent shares of the Chilean firm Antofagasta, which had opted to exit the project, whereas Canada’s Barrick Gold Corporation will invest $4.5bn to hold a 50pc share.
Under the agreement, Barrick Gold after the investment would never claim even a single penny in case of failure of the project. But if the exploration succeeds Pakistan will reap benefits out of it.
The CJP asked the Balochistan government to satisfy it about what policy or legal instrument it had developed to regulate the proposed transaction in the mining and exploration agreement or if the contract being proposed between the government and the Tethyan Copper Company Private Limited (TCCP) itself was a law, which it should not be.
The CJP said the government must have designed some new mining rules to fit in the international size agreement.
The AAG explained that TCCP, to be renamed Reko Diq Mining Company (Pvt) Limited, would be granted two mining leases for 30 years, adding that no project would be viable until two similar leases were granted to the investor for further exploration.
Furthermore, the CJP also appointed three senior counsel as amici curiae (friends of the court) to assist it in the matter, including former law minister Dr Farogh Naseem, Salman Akram Raja and Zahid Ebrahim.
It further issued a notice to the Balochistan Bar Association in addition to what it did at the last hearing on Oct 25 when it asked the Balochistan government, Barrick Gold Corporation, the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, Pakistan Petroleum Limited and Government Holdings (Pvt) Ltd to present their point on the question posed in the reference.
The case will be taken up again on Wednesday (today).
Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2022