By Mushtaq Ghumman
The Government of Pakistan (GoP) and M/s Barrick Gold PLC Canada are said to have started negotiations to settle the dispute on Reko Diq as M/s Antofagasta of Chile is seeking financial settlement of their share in the award of $6 billion, well informed sources told this correspondent.
Sharing the details, the sources said, on July 17, 2019, a Tribunal of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (1CSID) found Pakistan to have violated the Pakistan-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty and awarded $6 billion (approx.) plus interest against Pakistan to Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited (TCC), that is jointly owned by Barrick Gold PLC of Canada (Barrick) and Antofagasta PLC of Chile.
The tribunal had found that Pakistan unlawfully denied the TCC a lease to mine copper and gold deposits at the Reko Diq Mine, located in Chagai district of Balochistan.
The sources said, on the directions of the Prime Minister, a process of settlement talks with TCC was initiated. On August 22, 2019, the Prime Minister constituted a committee to steer the negotiations.
The committee comprised of: (i) Minister for Finance; (ii) Minister for Law & Justice; (iii) Attorney-General for Pakistan; (iv) Chief Minister of Balochistan; (v) Director General Military Intelligence; and (vi) Any person the Committee wishes to co-opt (the Apex Committee).
According to sources, M/s Barrick and M/s Antofagasta have divergent approaches to settlement as Barrick wishes to return to the Reko Diq project while Antofagasta is seeking a pure financial settlement of their share of the Award.
Accordingly, the two companies are now engaged with Pakistan separately. Currently, representatives from the Government of Pakistan and Government of Balochistan are in negotiations with representatives from Barrick on the legal, commercial, technical and operational (mining), security and administrative matters for their return to the project.
The current round of negotiations which started on November 29 will continue till December 3, 2021 in Islamabad.
The sources maintained that in this regard, any commercial/ economic proposal shall include questions of technical nature pertaining to the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division), Ministry of Energy (Power Division), Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, National Highway Authority, Gwadar Development Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, National Transmission & Despatch Company, Quetta Electric Supply Company, Sui Southern Gas Pipelines Limited, Pakistan State Oil and the Government of Balochistan Irrigation Department.
The sources said, on the advice of Attorney General Office well versed officials of no less than BS-Grade 20 have been nominated from each respective Ministry/Department to assist the Government of Pakistan in ongoing negotiations with M/s Barrick.
Pakistan team will submit its report to Prime Minister Imran Khan after finalization of agreement with M/s Barrick.
This article was first published in Business Recorder on Dec 1, 2021.