Reko Diq Exploration Base Camp
Baluchistan is the most unfortunate province of Pakistan although the biggest in area. Beneath its earth surface it is yet to be ascertained how much mineral wealth is awaiting human exploration, extraction and usage for the easement of Baluch brothers first, then on the marginal profit to be given to the people of other provinces. Period.
But, in reality, what has happened in past and what is happening in continuation is a very sad story. Take the case of Sui Gas. The powers that be started extracting gas for mass distribution from 1953 to domestic and industrial consumers throughout the country. But look at the ratio of distribution, all the other three provinces are consuming this gas 99% while the source province (poor Baluchistan) consuming share is just 1%. Two generations of this province saw and sustained this misery of remaining below poverty level in spite of the fact their province was bestowed by Allah having heavily rich in natural wealth (which remained in the hands of Islamabad). The present third generation is hostile and is do or die. The old Baluch survivors have not forgotten till 60s the education institutions (very very few) were affiliated with Lahore Board and University. Till late 70’s the judiciary for them was “High Court of Sind and Baluchistan”. This is the oxymoronic status of the richest and biggest province.
The geo-physical satellites sent in depth pictures and quantum data of Baluchistan’s wealth down its soil and now many greedy countries’ eyes are focused on the Saindak belt where world fifth largest deposits of copper and gold await exploration. It is interesting to note (not being the core issue of this article) why International forces like India, USA, China, Canada, Russia are active in the affairs of Baluchistan and why our military top brass is deeply indulged to control this region by hook or crook. In the last days of East Pakistan, a general had said we do not care about men (referring genocide) we care for land. History is repeating itself. Afghanistan and terrorism has lost its magic, NATO has left Iraq and their soldiers in Afghanistan are picking up their back packs. Luxurious days of constant flow of dollars and arms & ammunition is depleting for Pak Army every passing day. Their only hope remains the wealth of Reko Diq project which might cause continuation of Army’s life style. They are determined to have a full control of Baluchistan on the pretext of “Indian” involvement in the insurgencies taking place in this province. Forget about the farce stand of Media on this issue, it is a fact that Central government of Pakistan (past and present) and government of Baluchistan (past and present) could not and cannot go against the dictates of top brass. Proverbially these governments are and will remain under the thumb of Military in the name of security paradigm.
Without going into the long story of mining and extracting out deal of Rico Diq that started as far back as 1993, there are now three stake holders that would share the mineral wealth. One, Canada’s Barrick Gold, two, Chilean Company of Copper Producer (Tethyan Copper-Antofagasta) and the third stakeholder is Government of Baluchistan. Way back the mining and lease deal was signed by BHP Billiton which sold their rights to Barrick Gold and Antofagasta in 2006. The old deal main feature was that since it was a 3.3 Billion US$ costly project expenditure before the wealth would start digging out, the two Canadian and Chilean would hold 75% (divided equally between the two companies) while Government of Baluchistan will get the remaining 25% of the valuation dug out till the expiry of the renewed contract. Antofagasta claimed that they had successfully dug deep to 20,000 ft. and have struck gold and copper but they could not do further work of extraction unless the expired contract is renewed by the Government of Baluchistan. A dubious journalist, Shaheen Sehbai, published a lengthy article blaming malpractice and corruption in this deal. This was followed by a petition filed in Supreme Court signed by 20 Senators.
“Apex court wishes to know if the project violates any defence concerns. The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Deputy Attorney General to seek the army’s opinion on the Reko Diq project in light of national security, and inform the court on Wednesday.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary heard a number of petitions challenging the award of the contract to the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), a Canadian consortium of Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals for exploiting gold and copper in Reko Diq.
“There was no clause in the agreement on the protection of areas geographically sensitive from a defence point of view,” the chief justice remarked during the hearing. “National Interest and sovereignty should figure prominently in such agreements.”
The Pakistan army had no objection to mining after a briefing on the agreement, counsel for TCC Khalid Anwar apprised the court. Chaghi is a sensitive area but 20 other companies are operating there, he said, adding that TCC has given an application for a lease licence.”
From thereon, the real game started. All work on this project has been stopped. TCC offered re-negotiation for re-lease and renewal of the deal with the Baluchistan government to settle the matter outside court. But the provincial government has totally refused even to talk on it, you know and we know on whose behest. TCC has threatened to go before International Court of Arbitration for breach of contract. The hard fact remains the project stands still. Why military has been ordered by the Supreme Court to look and probe into it? Since when has military taken the role of “auditors”? Why Military has been given an overriding role over the civil government of Baluchistan? I do not know the answers of these questions, but, I do know, Baluchistan will remain as a colonial domain of powers that be, a trodden, tormented and oppressed province of Pakistan. And last but not the least, either the Reko Diq case file will remain dumped with other files under “adjourned to a date in office” or would continue to be lingered on one pretext or the other like all other cases filed against the government.