Supreme Court trashes Reko Diq agreement

The News International, Pakistan

Supreme Court trashes Reko Diq agreement

By Alam Rind

15 January 2013

It is wonderful that the stance of the government of Balochistan has been upheld by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. Decision given on 7th January, 2013 by the SC has declared the agreement on Reko Diq signed on July 23, 1993 as void and in conflict with the laws of the country. Tethyan Copper Company Pvt Limited (TCC) also lost its case in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on December 13, 2012. The ICSID has allowed the government of Balochistan and Dr Samar Mubarakmand to continue with their mining project in Reko Diq. These developments are a landmark victory for the Balochistan government and for Baloch people. But at the same time it places a great responsibility on Dr Samar Mubarakmand and his team to produce results.

Back in 1990s, copper and gold deposits in Reko Diq area were identified by the Geological Survey of Pakistan in collaboration with the BHP Billiton of Australia. It is believed that the project contains an estimated 12.3 million tons of world class copper and 10.9 million ounces of gold worth billion of dollars. The project is believed to be bigger than Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile. If Pakistan is able to successfully mine and extract copper and gold from this project, it will be able to generate immense amount of economic activity while creating hundreds of jobs for the Baloch youth.

The Balochistan government won this case after a long drawn struggle. In fact, former chief minister was approached by the top executives of the company during July 2010 for the favour. They were categorically told by him that the provincial government had decided to operate the copper and gold mine by itself for which a board of governors had been constituted. Disappointed for not being able to win over the Balochistan government, they met president and prime minister. They were told that it was not possible to bypass the provincial government on this issue. This decision reflects aspirations of the people of Balochistan and that of Pakistan.

Dr Samar Mubarakmand was appointed as the chairman of the steering committee for running the project. He has repeatedly asserted that Pakistan has the expertise needed to extract copper and gold from the mine. There is no doubt that a large pool of scientists and technicians capable of undertaking the project is available in the country. We only need the political will and consistency in our efforts and policies to achieve success.

The decision has also slain the hopes of rogue elements operating in the province. Tethyan Copper Company had planned to export the raw material to be processed in their own country; a fishy undertaking in view of the exuberant transportation cost. In this connection, they had shown their intent to build a small seaport some 30 kilometres east of Gwadar exclusively for transportation of the extracted ore. Reportedly, they had approached the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) not to interfere in transportation of ore for which they would have been paid handsomely. This complete setting would have been a recipe to strengthen terrorism in the province.

The SC decision has averted the possibility of such an ugly situation. Now it is the responsibility of the central and provincial governments to initiate physical work on the project without unnecessary delay. With the physical initiation of the work, benefits attached with the project will start trickling down to the people in shape of jobs and associated developmental works. A new economic activity will be initiated within the province that will engage a sizable portion of its youth.

The jobs will bring prosperity and concurrently would reduce the operating space for the terrorist elements in the province. This project if properly managed will not only usher into economic revival of the country but will also serve as a check on the spread of terrorism in the province of Balochistan and in Pakistan at large.