Balochistan govt to hire experts to re-tender Reko Dig: CM
By Saleem Shahid | 5/5/2015

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has said that his government would hire foreign experts to invite fresh tenders for field blocks of copper and gold deposits in Reko Dik after its legal team has advised the provincial authorities to initiate the sale process.

`This time we are working with a different approach and the best deal will be considered,` Dr Baloch told a briefing organised for parliamentarians and media here on Monday.

`We will soon issue new tenders after the TCC (Tethyan Copper Company) gave up its demand for the leasing rights on Reko Diq.

The chief minister said that things were at an initial stage and nothing had been finalised so far.

He rejected allegations by some opposition leaders that the government had accepted millions of rupees in commission for giving the project to TCC.

`Whatever decision or deal will be reached will be presented before the Balochistan cabinet and assembly for approval.

The TCC, a joint venture between Chile`s Antofagasta and Canada`s Barrack Gold, had initiated arbitration against governments of Pakistan and Balochistan in 2011 on mining licence dispute.

Dr Baloch said the legal team had recommended re-tendering of field blocks before an expected out-of-court settlement on damages claims.

He said Ahmer Bilal Soofi and Cherie Blair -legal experts pleading the case of Balochistan government and judges of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute had advised that negotiations should be initiated for an out of court settlement.

He said the government was considering a proposal to break Reko Dig copper and gold deposits into three to four blocks and call tenders in phases.

`Initially, we can offer two major block(s to international investors and remaining 12 can be put on sale later,` he added.

The TCC was granted exploration licence in 2006. It owned a 75 per cent stake in the project and Balochistan government 25 %.

The TCC, a joint venture between Chile`s Antofagasta and Canada`s Barrack Gold, had initiated arbitration against governments of Pakistan and Balochistan in 2011 on mining licence dispute.

Dr Baloch said the legal team had recommended re-tendering of field blocks before an expected out-of-court settlement on damages claims.

He said Ahmer Bilal Soofi and Cherie Blair -legal experts pleading the case of Balochistan government and judges of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute had advised that negotiations should be initiated for an out of court settlement.

He said the government was considering a proposal to break Reko Dig copper and gold deposits into three to four blocks and call tenders in phases.

`Initially, we can offer two major blocl(s to international investors and remaining 12 can be put on sale later,` he added.

The TCC was granted exploration licence in 2006. It owned a 75 per cent stake in the project and the Balochistan government 25pc.

Reko Dik holds an estimated 5.9 billion tons of mineral resources with an average copper grade of 0.41pc and gold 0.22 grams per ton.

The chief minister said the government and its legal team would press the TCC to agree on the out of-court settlement for damages.

He declined to spell out the compensation amount, saying both the parties have signed a non-disclosure agreement to avoid further `arbitration on the issue`.

`But we have an idea what they will ask for and we will challenge their figure.

Ahmer Bilal Soofi, the head of government`s legal team, said the tender process should start soon.

He disclosed that after rejection of two applications of TCC and its withdrawal from the mining licence demand, the site was now unlocked for negotiation for leasing out with some other international companies.

He said the TCC had applied for mining licence- 14 holes and 99 square kilometres areas, while the company was allotted six square kilometres for exploration.

He said after rejection of its two applications, including asking for mining licence, the TCC had filed a case for payment of damages and the money it had spent for purchasing the ownership of the project from BHP.

He said the company had claimed that it had paid $240 million for getting all rights of the project from BHP.

Mr Soofi said the TCC had now shown willingness to discuss an out-of-court settlement or stop further arbitration.

`We have advised the government to sort out technical issues and re-tender the fields before damage claims become major point of contention.

He said it was agreed in the agreement signed with the TCC that in case of any dispute the parties would approach the International Chamber of Commerce and the ICSID for settlement.

He said the ICC and ICSID had endorsed the Balochistan government`s stance and rejected application filed by the TCC for stay on lease of 14 deposits. `Now matter is pending with the court which will soon announce liability to be paid as damages,` he added two applications, including asking for mining licence, the TCC had filed a case for payment of damages and the money it had spent for purchasing the ownership of the project from BHP.

He said the company had claimed that it had paid $240 million for getting all rights of the project from BHP.

Mr Soofi said the TCC had now shown willingness to discuss an out-of-court settlement or stop further arbitration.

`We have advised the government to sort out technical issues and re-tender the fields before damage claims become major point of contention.

He said it was agreed in the agreement signed with the TCC that in case of any dispute the parties would approach the International Chamber of Commerce and the ICSID for settlement.

He said the ICC and ICSID had endorsed the Balochistan government`s stance and rejected application filed by the TCC for stay on lease of 14 deposits. `Now matter is pending with the court which will soon announce liability to be paid as damages,` he added.

Published in Dawn