THE PLUNDER OF BALOCHISTAN'S NATIONAL TREASURES
Deep Beneath the vast and barren landscape of Balochistan a national treasure is buried in the ancient volcanic mountains of the Chagai region. Not only is this treasure buried beneath sand and rocks, but is concealed by a dense cloak of controversy, corruption, and conspiracy.
In 1978 approximately 70km north-west of Naukundi; geological surveys uncovered sizeable deposits of gold and copper at the Reko Diq or “Sandy Peak” area of Chagai.
In 2010 the Canadian Company ‘Barrick Gold’ and Chilean-based copper mining company ‘Antofagasta Group’ purchased the contract from BHP (an Australian mining group) and formed the Tethyan Copper Company to explore and assess the potential of the Reko Diq site.
Exploration and assessment of the Reko Diq site revealed a deposit which could potentially rank among the top 5 gold deposits on Earth. Studies of the site discovered at least 5.9 billion tonnes of ore with an average copper grade of 0.41% and an average gold grade of 0.22 g/tonne.
This works out to roughly 12.3 million tonnes of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold. TCC estimated the mine could produce up to 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold per year for 56 years. TCC claimed the mine would earn profits of $1.14 billion for copper and $2.5 billion for gold, totaling $3.64 billion annually. The TCC calculated the mine would earn more than $200 billion over the mine’s 56 year lifespan.
These figures have been subject to frequent dispute, with actual estimates ranging from $150 billion to $400 billion. A great deal of specific certified data from the TCC exploration still remains a secret.
The cost to develop the Reko Diq site was estimated by TCC to be $3.3 billion. This would include the cost of building and operating the mine itself as well as processing facilities and a pipeline from Reko Diq to Gwadar.
Through this pipeline an unrefined “concentrate slurry” would be transported to the Gwadar seaport where tanker ships would then export the material to be refined into gold elsewhere.
The Occupational State’s provincial government vehemently opposed the construction of this pipeline, preferring the gold and copper be refined on site.
One year later, after Barrick gold and Antofagasta group had already invested over $200 million; the Balochistan provincial government rejected their mining lease application.
TCC in response to the rejection of their mining lease sought international arbitrations in an attempt to secure their investments in the region.
The TCC’s case was dismissed by the jurisdiction of the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In 2012 the Supreme Court of Pakistan held a hearing to declare the entire Reko Diq agreement with TCC null and void. TCC eventually withdrew its international appeals for the mining lease.
The last statement officially issued by TCC in May of 2013 indicated the company was seeking monetary damages as compensation for lost investments and contract breaches.
The International Court of Justice has recently conducted hearings on the case in Paris. After the conclusion of the hearings the ICSID has reserved their verdict which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Despite rumors of secret negotiations with TCC and back room deals with Chinese investors; Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik has denied such allegations and publicly stated there would be “No Compromise on the Reko Diq project”. Unfortunately due to his poor track record of fulfilling promises, Dr Malik’s statements provide little reassurance to the Baloch people.
Baloch Liberation Front spokesman Gohraam Baloch released a statement on October 10th declaring “The Baloch nation will not accept such endeavors and will resist against any agreements signed between foreign companies and governments of Pakistan to explore and exploit Baloch resources including Tethyan Copper Company (TCC).” Gohraam further stated “The Baloch will not welcome such anti-Baloch ventures of foreign companies so long as Balochistan remains under occupation.”
Renowned Baloch Leader Dr. Allah Nazar recently stated that “Multi-National Corporations should not waste their money on contracts with Pakistan to explore & plunder resources in Balochistan because Baloch won't allow this.” – Dr. Allah Nazar
In recent years Barrick Gold has also been surrounded by controversy. In 2009 and 2011 a number of Papua New Guinea villages were burned by regional security forces at and in the vicinity of a Barrick owned mine. A number of the security officers involved in the enforced evictions were also accused of raping some of the local girls. Similar activities have also been reported at the Barrick mine in Tanzania where villagers living near the mine reported security forces raping the local women and indiscriminately killing people. Although Barrick gold official denies any involvement in the human rights abuses, MiningWatch.ca has reported Barrick Gold is offering compensation to victims of human rights abuses near the Barrick mines in Tanzania and New Guinea.
At the nearby Saindak mines, the occupational state has been steadily exploiting another Baloch national treasure for over a decade. In 1998 the Pakistan government attempted to develop the Saindak site themselves; but failed to make the necessary Rs 17 billion investments in regional infrastructure necessary to develop the site to operational status. As a result, the Saindak project was halted until 2002 when the Pakistan Government auctioned a lucrative development contract to the international Chinese mining firm ‘Metallurgical Corporation of China’ (MCC). Within 2 years MCC had brought the Saindak site to operational capacity and had begun “testing” and “trial productions”. For the next decade MCC and the Occupational State plundered more than $3billion worth of copper and gold from Saindak. In 2012 the Pakistan Government extended the Saindak mining lease with MCC for an additional 5 years. Since taking possession of the mines in 2002 MCC claims to have spent more than Rs 27 billion exploring, and developing the Saindak site.
Less than one year after State officials granted a 5 year extension to the MCC mining lease, the Pakistani Federal Government accepted a proposal to transfer ownership of the mine to the provincial government. In response to this, MCC has demanded the state reimburse their Rs 27 billion investment.
Despite all the exported minerals, foreign investment, and empty promises, the Chagai region remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in the world. Only 6% of the population has access to water, while only 5% has access to electricity. There are no colleges or vocational training centers. Public schools are being systematically destroyed & replaced by State funded religious schools teaching extremist doctrines. The Chagai District Headquarters of Dalbandin has become an epicenter of State sponsored radicalization. A number of militant Jihadist gangs such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Jamaat-ud-Dawah have established a significant presence in the region.
An article in the Shia post has alleged that ISIS has openly established offices in a number of regions throughout Pakistan.
While it remains questionable if the Pakistan government has the capacity to ever actually develop the Reko Diq project; Occupational State Profiteers continue their campaign to secure undisputed authority over Balochistan’s natural resources. Whether it be sold to the TCC or some other foreign mining company, the fate of Balochistan’s buried treasures is being auctioned by corrupt officials for as much immediate personal gain as possible, with complete disregard for the inherent rights of the Baloch people.
Balochi TV Online - Shawn Forbes