Corruption remains a substantial hurdle for our country where it is still comprehended to be far-flung and systemic. From top level to the bottom, widespread financial and political corruption, nepotism, and misuse of power is apparent and manifest in society. From last few months, we the people of Pakistan are so engrossed in political changes and happenings or I should say that we were being captivated deliberately to keep us distracted from what is going on in Baluchistan and behind the doors at President House in Islamabad.
During my research on mineral and natural resources of Pakistan, I came across with the case of the mineral resources at “Reko Diq” and I was stunned that the picture that egresses is so muddy and mind boggling that any ordinary soul just cannot fathom what is going on. Renowned journalist Mr. Shaheen Sehbai was the first person who lifted the curtain up from this Scandal and brought it in limelight. Currently he is Group Editor of “The News” and a well known and respectable member of Journalism society. In order to develop a better understanding and complexity of the the issue, I would like to narrow down some basic information about the resources at “Reko Diq” that I found in his detailed report.
He mentioned in his report that
“Reko Diq” is a large copper-gold porphyry mineral deposit on the Tethyan belt, located in southwest Pakistan in the province of Baluchistan. As Pakistan has limited resources, the license for exploration was first given to an Australian mineral exploration firm in 1993 who invested around $30 million and the government of Baluchistan entered into an agreement with the Australian company BHP Billiton according to which 75% shares will belong to them and 25% will go to Baluchistan government with federal government has no share at all. In 2006 BHP Billiton sold the company to a Canadian and Chilean joint venture for $230 million. The new company was named Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) of Pakistan. In Musharraf era, two licenses (EL-6 and EL-8) for exploration were given on a 100 per cent ownership basis to these foreign firms, with Pakistan (or Baluchistan) having no share at all. TCC has completed their feasibility report last year and claimed that the feasibility study and social and environmental analysis cost is $250 million while the overall estimate of the project $3.3 billion will be spent in the next 56 years.
Mr. Sehbai also mentioned that
The Pakistanis were never told the exact size of the gold and copper deposits that were found by these foreigners. Even until July this year, when a top level delegation of the Canadian company led by Aaron Regent met Prime Minister Gilani in Islamabad, the PM was told that 2.2 billion pounds of copper (10 million tons) and 13 million oz of gold will be extracted and development of this mega project shall generate a revenue of only about $3.5 billion for Government of Pakistan and $4.5 billion for Government of Baluchistan over 40 years. But the Canadian company has to report the real value to its own Canadian government agencies every year and on December 31, 2008 it informed these agencies, and its shareholders, that its 37.5 per cent share in Reko Diq would yield 17 million ounces of gold and 20 billion pounds of copper in measured, indicated and inferred resources. And these deposits have to be mined in 25 years, not as PM of Pakistan was told in 40 years. The current prices of these two minerals, the total asset of the Canadian, Chilean and Pakistan government would be over $260 billion and according to former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, as the prices of gold and copper go up, the total yield could be even $500 billion or may be a trillion.
After going through all this detail I was under the impression that since TCC (Tethyan Copper Company) is playing spoof games, our government will not issue them the mining license after January since their explore license is going to be expired after this month. But unfortunately, the way our politicians always give priority to their own interest rather than Nation’s, it is heard that there are deals going on in closed doors. Some 20 top corporate bosses and lobbyists of two of the world’s largest gold mining groups have been meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Governor State Bank and others dignitaries in Islamabad urging them to promptly hand over one of the world’s biggest gold and copper treasures found in Baluchistan at Reko Diq, worth over $260 billion, to their companies, against peanuts. Although CM Balochistan Mr. Raisani is stating that no deal has been signed as yet but TCC has already started advertising new jobs in local and national newspapers.
Moreover, a petition has been filed against assigning this project to TCC in Supreme Court under the panel of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry himself and 2 other honorable judges. Dr. Samar Mubarkmand, chairman board of governors of Reko Diq Copper Development project, said in a presentation in front of the court that Pakistan is possessed with the expertise and technology to explore and refine the precious metals — an investment which will help the government earn $2 billion per annum. According to the international mining experts, if Pakistan gets its fair share from the gold and copper mines, Baluchistan and Pakistan would become richer than any of the present oil producing Gulf countries, many times over. “They have the goods, they need the will,” they said.
I came across with different opinions on this issue. Unfortunately most of us have become worldly-minded and just by looking on the surface those materialistic people seem under the misconception that thousands of jobs will be provided by the foreign companies and this agreement should go on. They are not sense the fact that Pakistan will loose billions of dollars in mishandled agreements to explore this natural resource. Why don’t we trust our abilities? Why do we rely on outsiders to resolve our problems? I have no doubt in saying that we are talented enough and are capable of protecting our treasures. We are blessed with brilliant minds like Dr. Samar Mubarkmand who are ready to take the lead. The government should support them instead of making few million dollars to fill their accounts which could cost the country billions.
For the sake of humanity and our country Pakistan, all of us including Supreme Court, parliament and the media have to play their vital role at this crucial time. Before it’s too late to regret, I hope that our leaders will think patriotically and take decisions that are in the best interest of the nation’s of Pakistan.