- The involvement of international giants was crucial
Miseries and misfortunes have become a norm for the people of Pakistan, but unfortunately all this pain and agony is inflicted on the helpless masses by those supposed to be custodians of their safety.
The case of Reko Diq and the nefarious designs and decisions of those in power at the time reflects a classic case as to how organised crime and the mafia behind major national decisions operate and trade off national interests.
As a citizen of Pakistan, I filed a petition in the Supreme Court to become a party and save this vital project from disaster. Although I knew the then Chief Justice of Pakistan and pleaded in Courtroom 1 to give me a chance to present the case but I was not allowed on the grounds that at that time only legal issues were under discussion. In my observation, the Bench did not understood anything about the project and the counsel on both sides were only interested to drag the case towards arbitration so that fat fees and trips to Geneva could be enjoyed. The result is before the nation with damages of $6 billion.
I think it will be still relevant that I summarise my petition in the Supreme Court.
“Pakistan has been blessed with enormous mineral wealth, particularly in Balochistan. Saindak was the first mining undertaking of Pakistan, but it has turned out to be a disaster, giving no benefits to the people of Balochistan in particular and Pakistan in general. It was very heartening to see that the Government of Balochistan in the 1980s, in spite of alarming law and order situation, were able to attract world mining giants to invest in exploration at Reko Diq.
If anyone in Pakistan thinks that he can set up a smelter for the final refining of the concentrate from Reko Diq and operate it profitably, he must do so and make a great deal for himself. It may be a very good omen for Pakistan, but for God’s sake do not jeopardise the whole Project
Under this agreement, the developers after strenuous efforts over many years and spending about $260 million, discovered low-grade mineable ore containing 0.5 per cent copper and 0.3 grams per ton gold. The development of the mine and processing facilities would be completed in four years at a cost of $3.3 billion and with a working capital of about $2.2 billion. The project is expected to yield 2.2 billion pounds (10,000,000 tons) of copper and 13 million ounces of gold. The preliminary estimates indicate that the income in 56 years could yield from $500 billion to over $1 trillion.
“During the development stage, 11,500 direct jobs and over 50,000 indirect jobs will be created and 98 per cent of them for Pakistanis, mostly local people. It is not difficult to imagine what an economic revolution this project would bring for the wellbeing of the people of Balochistan and, indeed, Pakistan. The Reko Diq project is as important for the financial health of Balochistan and Pakistan, as were the Kahuta and uranium extraction for the defence of Pakistan.
However, there has been a mad rush of misconceptions and misinformation being spread, that this vital project may be sacrificed at the altar of intellectual dishonesty, greed and pumped-up righteousness.
The detractors have been spreading the notion that rules were relaxed by the Balochistan government. We would like to quote: “The laws, which can be defined as a system of standards and rules defining the rights and obligations of the members of civil society, are made to regulate the activities and functions of its members in an orderly manner. The laws are, however, frequently changed to reflect the changes in society’s needs and attitudes. The courts are there to see that the laws are observed and justice has generally been the law’s guiding principle.”
The 1973 Constitution was framed by the best legal and political minds, yet it has already seen 19 Amendments. Instead of blaming the Baloch officials, they should be highly rewarded for successfully attracting the two world giants to invest in a mining project in Pakistan. Balochistan government had, so far, given 24 exploration leases. Instead of sabotaging the development of Reko Diq, let the same conditions be applied to all others.
The successful implementation of such projects, require monumental financial resources and commitment from the government, like to Kahuta. No matter in what fantasy world some self-proclaimed experts live, the needed financial resources will never become available locally.
Governments do not directly get involved in such projects, because these are very high risk (one in 100 is the success rate), require high quality know-how and experience, mega investments and international marketing placements to earn maximum dividends, which can be secured only through high-profile international players.
In the mining industry, the lease period is determined keeping in mind the manageable disposal of waste earth that is more than 99 per cent of the extracted ore. After mining finishes, the mine area must undergo rehabilitation. Waste dumps, enormous by any standards, must be contoured to flatten them to further stabilise them. If the ore contains sulphides, it is must be covered with a clay layer to prevent access of rain and oxygen from air, which can create sulfuric acid. This is then covered with fertile soil and vegetation planted to help consolidate the material. No such essential rehabilitation has been done at Saindak.
It is also the worldwide practice for who find and drill out a mineral resource to mine them out and according to the laws of the country, pay taxes and royalty to the State and federal government.
In the mining industry, after the processing of the ore in the smelters, the concentrate is the end product. The 30 per cent concentrate will be prepared at the processing plant in Chagi and then sold through international tendering. Its analysis will be known to all. All that is needed is to ensure that the Pakistani lab staff do not sell themselves too cheaply. Otherwise, nobody will be able to steal anything.
If anyone in Pakistan thinks that he can set up a smelter for the final refining of the concentrate from Reko Diq and operate it profitably, he must do so and make a great deal for himself. It may be a very good omen for Pakistan, but for God’s sake do not jeopardise the whole project.
Many people will claim they can, but Reko Diq needs those who have already handled such projects successfully.