New Delhi, Oct 4 (IANS): The Pakistani government is planning to sell off its part of the shares in the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project to Saudi Arabia. The other partners in the venture are the Canada-based Barrick Gold and the government of Balochistan.
Pakistani newspaper The News International reported on Tuesday that Pakistan is keen to invite investment from the Gulf nation as part of the strenuous efforts by the government and the army to attract foreign investment from friendly countries.
The deal to extract gold and copper from the highly insurgent-prone province of Balochistan had been signed by the previous government under prime minister Imran Khan. The partnership entailed 50 per cent holding by Barrick Gold, and the rest between the federal government and the provincial government of Balochistan.
The news that Pakistan might exit the deal has been floating since the first week of August after the then government of Shehbaz Sharif and the army together organised the Pakistan Mineral Summit in Islamabad on August 1 this year. The summit was to open up Pakistan’s $6 trillion worth of mineral deposits to foreign investment.
Speaking with reporters at the mineral summit, Barrick CEO Mark Bristow had said that he had no objection to Pakistan selling off its Reko Diq – the controversial gold and copper mining project in Balochistan stake to Saudi Arabia.
However, a major concern at the summit was the poor security that foreign firms faced in a conflict-prone Balochistan. Chinese projects and engineers have faced relentless deadly attacks from Baloch fighters over perceived exploitation of their gas and mineral resources.
Before organising the mineral summit, Shehbaz Sharif and the Pakistani Army under General Asim Munir had also established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to open up critical Pakistani sectors to foreign investment as the country was fast spiralling into financial and forex chaos with food and fuel inflation shooting through the roof.
The News International also reported that the Pakistani government-Army led SIFC has confirmed the development. It reported that “the brotherly state is interested in investing in the existing project because, like any investor, Saudis don’t want to take risks by venturing into an unexplored mining area”.
The newspaper also reported that Barrick is also interested in getting the Saudis as partners.
In August Baloch organisations had exclusively told India Narrative that Saudi investment in Balochistan’s gold and copper mines could only escalate the volatile situation in the province. Qazi Dad Mohammad Rehan, the Information and Cultural Secretary of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) had said that more foreign investment will only, “compound the current problems and lead to a worsening of the situation”.
The Baloch insurgent organisations had warned Barrick Gold last year itself that the armed fighters will “defend Baloch motherland and its resources”. The Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) had said that ” …we warn Barrick Gold Corporation to immediately walk away from the Reko Diq deal as the Baloch freedom fighters have been ordered to target Barrick Gold’s employees, security, installation and any convoys in Balochistan”.