ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday questioned as to whether the new Reko Diq project for exploration of mines and gold was environment friendly and directed the federal government to furnish a comprehensive report pertaining to measures taken for protecting the environment.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, heard the Presidential Reference on the new Reko Diq Project.
Is the project environment friendly or not, the chief justice asked Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman.
The court directed the law officer to submit reports as to what measures have been settled in the Reko Diq agreement for ensuring environment protection besides measures for protecting lease rights.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the counsel for Barrick Gold Company the other day informed the court that a slurry pipeline of 680 kilometer-long to transport the material (minerals) through water will be built at the expense of the project company. “Is water facility available and from where the project will use the water?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked the law officer. “Think as to how much water will be wasted on daily basis,” the Chief Justice asked AAG.
The AAG, however, submitted that plenty of water reserves are available at Reko Diq.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, however, observed that as cement plants were installed in the Potohar belt, the area later faced the issue of shortage of water. The judge further observed that as there was low rain in Balochistan, hence scarcity of water issue might erupt.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial stressed that right of lease should also be taken into account in the Reko Diq agreement and asked the law officer to state as to what measures have been taken to protect the lease rights.
Meanwhile, Aman Ullah Kanrani, counsel for the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, submitted before the court that in 2010, laws pertaining to exploration of mines were enacted, which should be applied.
The Chief Justice, however, observed that the court was looking into the legal questions raised in the Presidential Reference. Kanrani, however, submitted that the court apart from fixed match between the government and the project company, should also hear other stance as well.
“At the moment, there is only one stance of Pakistan and that is to move cautiously,” the chief justice replied, adding that the court will ensure protection of rights of general public at large in accordance with law.
“Several experiences were made on Pakistan and we can’t afford further experiences,” Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, another member of the bench, remarked
The chief justice observed that international organisations were trying to confiscate Pakistan’s assets in lieu of 9 billion dollar fines. He further observed that Dr Samar Mubarakmand wasted country’s Rs690 million while making his experiences.
Advocate General Balochistan submitted that the Government of Balochistan was facing cases after the earlier Reko Diq project was set aside in 2013. He submitted that Amanullah Kanrani was the Advocate General of Balochistan in 2013, adding that since then the provincial government had spent some Rs8 billion on cases pending in international courts. Meanwhile, the chief justice observed that Reko Diq is a national project that will give benefits to the Balochistan province without any burden and expressed the hope that the project would be environment friendly.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till November 28.