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Copper-gold project: SC moved to resume Reko Diq case

by Faisal Shakeel

Tethyan filed arbitration proceedings in Washington and Paris a few days ago in order to protect its legal rights, according to its CEO Tim Livesey. Tehthyan, exploring gold and copper deposits in the Reko Diq area, opted for arbitration after the Balochistan government turned down its application for granting a mining lease on November 16.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been moved to resume the hearing of the Reko Diq case to “block the Tethyan Copper Company’s effort to frustrate the laws of the land through international arbitration”.

Tethyan filed arbitration proceedings in Washington and Paris a few days ago in order to protect its legal rights, according to its CEO Tim Livesey. Tehthyan, exploring gold and copper deposits in the Reko Diq area, opted for arbitration after the Balochistan government turned down its application for granting a mining lease on November 16.

The project, which is estimated to eventually cost more than $3 billion, is expected to generate a huge amount of foreign direct investment into the country. Tethyan is a joint-venture between Chile’s Antofagasta and Canada’s Barrick Gold.

On May 5, 2011, the SC had allowed the government of Balochistan “to expeditiously decide Tethyan’s application for granting the mining lease. The court had already heard several applications against the legality of the agreement between the company and the Balochistan government.

“It is necessary that the court declares illegal the agreement between the Balochistan government and the Tethyan Copper Company,” the latest application by the members of Jamaat-i-Islami and the Workers Party stated through their counsel Raz Kazim. Through his application in the SC, Kazim is seeking an early hearing of the case.

Kazim informed the SC that Tethyan wants to avoid Pakistani law and the authority of the judiciary to enforce the laws governing the Reko Diq. He fears a negative result for his clients: “The international arbitration tribunal will have no option but to give a decision in favour of the Tethyan, which can be safely assumed to be billions of US dollars,” Kazim said.

Kazim added that such a decision would force the government to surrender to Tethyan’s demands. He said in an international arbitration, the tribunal has no power to adjudicate upon the application of the constitution of Pakistan and the laws governing CHEJVA – the agreement between the Balochistan government and the Tethyan.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Kazim said the Tethyan would lose justification for arbitration if the SC held the agreement invalid. The court has not held any hearing since May, but is keeping the case pending for a decision upon submission of a report on the outcome of the decision on Tethyan’s application.

Balochistan Advocate General Amanullah Kanrani said that a report on the rejection of Tethyan’s application had been submitted to the court as required. Tethyan’s application has been rejected because it did not submit the entire report on its survey of the leased land, he said, adding that where Tethyan has filed for arbitration, it hopes for a negotiated settlement with the government of Balochistan to starting mining the multi-billion dollar copper and gold fields of Reko Diq.

When contacted, Supreme Court Registrar Fakir Hussain said the court would resume the hearing of the entire case in due course. The report shall also be taken up, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2011.

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