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Friday December 09, 2022

Supreme Court told new Reko Diq project to start within five years

The Supreme Court was informed that the feasibility of the new Reko Diq project will be completed in two and a half years, while the project will start within five years

By Our Correspondent
November 17, 2022
The SC building in Islamabad. The SC website.
The SC building in Islamabad. The SC website.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that the feasibility of the new Reko Diq project will be completed in two and a half years, while the project will start within five years.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokel, heard the Presidential Reference on the new Reko Diq project.

Continuing his arguments, Salahuddin Ahmed, counsel for the Balochistan government, submitted that the provincial government will have a share of 25 percent in the project investment, of which 15 percent will go to Government Holdings Pakistan Limited (GHPL) and offshore companies in Balochistan.

He said that a 25 percent share of the province includes five percent for the royalty and CSR also creates job opportunities. Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial asked the counsel when the project will be completed, to which the counsel replied that the feasibility study of the new Reko Diq project will be completed in two and a half years while the project will start within the next five years.

He further submitted that China, Japan, and Russia had also approached Pakistan for the Reko Diq project; however, he said these countries were not willing to pay the penalty of nine billion dollars imposed by the International Arbitration Court on Pakistan.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen inquired of the counsel about Pakistan’s case before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the International Criminal Court.

The counsel replied that the case is pending against Pakistan with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) for violating the agreement, while in the International Criminal Court the case is pending against the government of Balochistan.

The Balochistan government counsel informed the court that if Pakistan failed to agree to the project, the affected company would take legal action. It is pertinent to mention that in 1993, the government of Balochistan made an agreement with foreign investors in the Chaghai Hills Exploration Joint Venture for the exploration and mining of gold and copper reserves in Reko Diq, in which the Tethyan Copper Company invested $240 million.

However, the agreement was challenged in the Balochistan High Court in 2006, which was dismissed; in 2013, the Supreme Court declared the agreement void. After the apex court judgment, the Tethyan Copper Company approached the international arbitration tribunal of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which issued an award of $9 billion in damages to Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) on the arbitration claims filed against the government of Pakistan for denial of a mining lease for the Reko Diq project.

Justice Yahya Afridi asked the counsel whether, apart from gold and copper, other leases of minerals will also be given to the company, to which the counsel replied in the affirmative and said that Barrick Gold will also keep leases of other minerals besides gold and copper.

Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial asked whether transactions for the Reko Diq project would be made at the international level. The counsel replied that the transactions would be made through offshore companies.

The counsel claimed that the government of Balochistan will get an investment of $32 billion from the Reko Diq project over 47 years. The court adjourned the hearing for Thursday (today). Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, had filed a reference in the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Last month, the federal cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, approved the filing of a Presidential Reference in the Supreme Court to seek its opinion on legal and public-interest issues.

The questions as to whether the earlier judgment of the Supreme Court, reported as Maulvi Abdul Haq Baloch versus Federation of Pakistan PLD 2013 SC 641, the Constitution, laws, or public policy prevent the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Balochistan from entering into the Reko Diq Agreement or affect their validity, And if enacted, would the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill, 2022, be valid and constitutional?

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