Jewel in the Crown: Reqo Diq Copper and Gold Deposits in Balochistan Province of Pakistan
On June 14, 2008 there was a well attended demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club.This incident was well reported in the National news papers, but it did not make any headlines nor any ripples were caused in the national way of life of an ordinary Pakistani citizen. This event passed un-noticed and was soon forgotten as many fiascoes and malfeasance are wiped like dust under the carpet in Pakistan. Why were these people agitating? This will be deliberated subsequently, but the point of concern and worth noting is that no one from the Government whether it was the CENTRAL or the PROVINCIAL took any note of this minor incident. One NGO by the name of AZAT foundation tried to highlight the rights concern and miseries of these demonstrators. The reason for this commotion, brouhaha and demonstrations were the termination of the services of out sourced workers by Pakistani Contractors such as Capital drilling, Security 2000, RAK MOR Drilling, Zain Company, Zia & Brothers.
In April 2008, Zain Company terminated the services of 40 (forty) drilling assistants and recruited novices and non-locals. This caused a lot of resentment and indignation amongst the local population and this was the focal point and reason for the demonstrations in front of the Quetta Press Club.
One Ponders why such high profile companies are working with alacrity in Balouchistan and what are the stakes? The stakes must be very high for such mega conglomerates who are rapacious and reticent to work in remote undeveloped hazardous, hostile and barren terrain.
The reasons are the high deposits of gold and copper which are found in REKO DIQ and SAINDAK in Balouchistan.
Reko Diq is a small town in Chaghi District, Balouchistan having the worlds largest Gold and Copper reserves. Reports emerging from various sources indicate that the US $ 65 Billion natural deposits might have been sold for a meager US $ 21 Billion to TETHYAN COPPER of Australia which has taken the contract to develop this mine while BARRICK GOLD CORPORATION of Canada (a JEWISH Company) and ANTOFAGASTA of Chile have a joint-ownership of the copper-gold deposit at REKO DIQ.
The Reko Diq deposit is being explored by TETHYAN COPPER COMPANY PRIVATE LTD (75%) and the (BDA) Balochistan Development Authority (25%). TETHYAN COPPER COMPANY is held jointly (50:50) by Barrick Gold Corporation and ANTOFAGASTA Minerals.
Currently the deposit is at scoping / pre feasibility stage. It is a world class copper / gold porphyry style deposit, typical of the TETHYAN belt. It has been sold to the Zionist controlled regimes by the Pakistani Government under the enigmatic and esoteric dictator General (r) Pervaiz Mushrraf at a throw away price of $ 21 billion. Rough estimates suggest that the gold and copper at the surface accounts for $ 65 billion worth of deposits.
REKO DIQ is a giant copper and gold project in CHAGHI, containing 12.3 million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold in inferred and indicated resources. The REKO DIQ copper deposits, which is in the neighborhood of SAINDAK copper project, is four times larger in copper ore tonnage as compared to that of SAINDAK. The most credible international surveys suggest that REKO DIQ is one of the biggest undeveloped copper projects in the world with over 11 billion pounds of copper and nine million ounces of gold deposits.
So far, three foreign companies have purchased stakes in the well poised lucrative and strategic copper and gold assets setting off a cycle of chain of foreign ownership of REKO DIQ copper project. Pakistan has only 25 per cent stake in the REKO DIQ copper project. The rest of the 75 per cent stakes had first been transferred to BHP BILLITON, the Anglo-Australian mining giant and then BHP BILLITON under a deed of waiver and consent transferred it to the Australian TCC and now TCC has sold its 19.95 per cent stake to ANTOFAGASTA Minerals.
According to Wikipedia
Reko Diq is a small town in CHAGAI DISTRICT, BALOCHISTAN, PAKISTAN, in a desert area 70 kilometers north west of NAUKUNDI, near to the Iran-Afghan border.
Reko Diq, also the name of an ancient volcano, literally means SANDY PEAK, but this is something of a misnomer. It could be called TANGAV DIQ, or gold peak, because according to development expert Syed Fazl-e-Haider, below the sands lie some 12.3 million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold. The copper-gold deposits at REKO DIQ are believed to be even bigger than those of SARCHESHMEH in Iran and ESCONDIDA in Chile.
Reko Diq is a giant copper and gold project in CHAGHI. The main license (EL5) is held jointly by the GOVERNMENT OF BALOCHISTAN (25%), ANTOFAGASTA MINERALS (37.5%) and BARRICK Gold (37.5%).
BHP BILLITON, the world’s largest mining company, started this project with the Australian firm TETHYAN, entering into a joint venture with the Balochistan government and estimating an annual production of 200 to 500 million pounds of copper. A large number of porphyry rocks are also known to exist.
The interests of the Australian company in REKO DIQ and its surrounding areas were taken over by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation and the Chilean ANTOFAGASTA Minerals. Under a surreptitious and clandestine wheeling and dealing these companies were handed a very lucrative deal. The terms agreed upon show that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Royalties were reduced from the initial four to two per cent. Terms for the provision of cost-free land for an airport and a 400 km REKO DIQ-GWADAR road were accepted. An unjust clause is that a 25 per cent share will be paid to the Balochistan Government, but only after it invests 25 per cent in the project. This is a paradoxical clause with a catch that at the end of the day the Government of Balouchistan ends up with the dirty end of stick while the poor people of Pakistan and the Balochs in particular are denied of the profits and royalties from such a lucrative project.
ANTOFAGASTA’S net assets at the end of 2007 grew to almost $ 5 billion. In December 2005 it said: “TETHYAN’S principal assets are a 75 per cent interest in the highly prospective Chagai Hills region of North West Pakistan known as REKO DIQ, including the Tanjeel Mineral Resource. This mining district hosts significant copper-gold porphyry deposits as part of an extended copper-gold belt. Total indicated and inferred mineral resource estimates at these properties are 1,213 million tonnes with a copper grade of 0.58 % and a gold grade of 0.28 grams per tonne. Estimates include probable reserves at the Tanjeel of 128.8 million tonnes with a copper grade of 0.7 %.
According to Rob Maguire of the Dominion paper, Barrick is the foremost gold mining corporation in the world, with sales exceeding $2.6bn in 2005 and the largest reserves in the industry, at nearly 90 million ounces. Proponents of this project state that the mines will create thousands of high paying jobs and give a massive boost to the local economy. However the main fear and apprehensions many have is that revenues generated by this project will be plundered & squandered by corrupt officials and Politicians. Therefore it is imperative that a mechanism be evolved to ensure that revenues generated actually lead to better infrastructure, education and health.
There are many advocates of such mega projects who claim that the BALOCHS have benefited from their trickle-down effect but this trickle town effect is yet to be seen in Balouchistan which is still the most undeveloped and most primitive in the provision of basic civic amenities like drinking water sanitation and health.
According to Marcel Claude, vice-president of the international environmental group Oceana, gold mining dumps 79 tonnes of waste for every 28 grams of gold and produces 96 per cent of the world’s arsenic emissions which are notorious for slow arsenic poisoning in workers.
There is another great diabolical dilemma which involves industrial hazard diseases and ecological upsets because gold / copper mining uses sodium cyanide, arsenic and other chemicals which produce toxic by-products. These toxics and hazardous by products of gold and copper mining cause diseases like pneumoconiosis, lung cancer, breathing disorders, skin disorders and musculo-skeletal anomalies to which the poor mine workers are exposed to with out adequate precautionary measures like gas masks, oxygen breathing air filtration apparatus and frequent and periodic medical checks. Radiation is also a cause of concern in such areas where radio active minerals like uranium and beryllium may be found though in very low concentration but at the same time very lethal and toxics even on small exposures.
The total accumulated debt burden of Pakistan is estimated to be more than 2 Trillion US $. This is causing a burden on our economy and hindering our development and growth. The need of the hour is to develop and rely on our own resources like Petroleum, Gas and Minerals, which if properly handled will make Pakistan into a prosperous and developed nation.
REKO DIQ and SANDIK are two such jewels in the crown of Pakistan that if handled properly and with Nationalistic spirit will in the long run make Pakistan a prosperous and developed country no longer dependent on UNCLE SAM, IMF or the Begging bowl.
The people of Pakistan must realize their hidden potentials their inherent strength and their un-matched capabilities which if channelized and handled properly under a truly peoples representative government will turn the tables in a short time.
The writer is an Eye Specialist by Profession, Defense analyst, Social activist and Spokesperson of Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA).