Balochistan govt to decide leasing of Reko Diq project: SC
25 May, 2011
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC), on Tuesday, observed that the Balochistan government had itself to decide about the leasing of mining of copper and gold reserves at Reko Diq to Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan (TCCP).
The court directed the parties involved in the exploration and mining of copper and gold deposits in Reko Diq to resolve the matter of mining with mutual cooperation and inform the court on Wednesday (today).
A three-member bench was hearing constitutional petitions filed by Muhammad Tariq Asad, Barrister Zafarullah from Watan Party, Maulana Abdul Haque Baloch and others against the federal government through Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources secretary and government of Balochistan through secretary industries and others against leasing out of gold and copper mines in Balochistan to the foreign exploration and mining companies.
The Reko Diq project, located in Chaghai district of Balochistan, is being developed by TCCP and is jointly owned by Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada, and Antofagasta, Chile.
The whole case has emerged from a judgment passed by the Balochistan High Court (BHC), challenged in CPLA No 796 of 2007, and petitions filed under Article 184(3) of the constitution along with applications of the interveners.
During the hearing, the chief justice (CJ) said the court could nullify the BHC`s verdict, a prima facie hurdle in the transparency of the mining lease, if the respondents would agree to handle the matter with mutual cooperation.
He observed that the matter pertaining to the renewal of exploration and mining licences was an administrative matter, which would have to be decided by the Balochistan government.
One of the petitioners, Advocate Tariq Asad, submitted before the court that he wanted to separately challenge the mining rules.
The court, however, told him that mining rules had already been challenged by Maulvi Abdul Haq.
The CJ noted that the licence for the exploration and mining of gold and copper deposits at Reko Diq obtained by the TCC had already expired. He said the authority of issuing mining and exploration licences rested with the Balochistan government.
Tariq Asad said the Balochistan cabinet had already decided that the exploration and mining licence would not be issued to the TCC.
The court then directed Ahmer Bilal Soofi, counsel for the Balochistan government, to take instructions from the provincial government in this regard and inform it on Wednesday (today).
The counsel told the court that his client was awaiting the court`s verdict. Justice Muhammad Sair Ali said the court could not decide the matter in place of the government.
The CJ said: “We will keep the petitions pending, but ultimate decision about the Reko Diq project has to be made by the Balochistan government.” The court adjourned the case for Wednesday (today).