By Sohail Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was told on Monday that leasing out of the Reko Diq gold and copper mines in Balochistan to a foreign company was the biggest case of bad governance and irresponsibility.
A four-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and comprising Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, was hearing a case against the leasing of Reko Diq gold and copper mines in Balochistan worth over $260 billion to a foreign exploration and mining company by the federal government in violation of law.
Raza Kazim, the counsel for one of the petitioners, while concluding his arguments, told the court that Reko Diq case was bigger than the Pakistan Steel Mills and eight times bigger than the Indian Telecom case, wherein the Indian Supreme Court had stayed the licence in the case.
Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday recalled that even the Indian IT minister quit after the court gave its judgment. At one point, Justice Ramday observed that as per the initial agreement made with the foreign company, it was held that the company will give instructions to the Balochistan government. “It is very painful how the provincial government surrendered in such a manner,” he said, adding: “The fault is on our side, if we do not honour ourselves then the foreign company is right in ruling us. We have given this right to the foreign company, and it is shameful to read the privileges that we have given in it (agreement).”
Raza Kazim contended that the status of Tethyan Cooper Company (TCC) was like an agent because it had sold out shares to other companies, Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals. At this, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali asked the learned counsel as to whether the TCC was registered as a Pakistani company.
“Till 2000, it was not registered,” Kazim replied, adding that the company wanted to hold a monopoly in the area, so that neither local nor any other foreign company could come.
The counsel further submitted that EL-6 and EL-8 were in their possession despite the fact that their licence got expired in 2009. He further submitted that the company also got possession of EL-25 and 26 for which it had not yet attained any licence.
Balochistan Advocate General Salahuddin Mengal submitted before the court that the provincial government had expressed serious reservations over the feasibility report submitted by the company. He further submitted that their experts had made analysis of the said feasibility report and found that the company had covered so far only six square kilometres while the total area was about 450 square kilometres.
He further submitted that geologists of the Mineral Department had started their survey, adding until it was completed, no work would be started on the project. Meanwhile, Raza Kazim suggested to the court to constitute a commission that could make analysis of the feasibility report.
Later, Tariq Asad, the main petitioner, informed the court that he had not yet been provided relevant documents about the project. The court however, asked him to commence his arguments on the basis of whatever information he had as he had filed the petition.
Meanwhile, he argued before the court about the rules and bylaws concerning the lease. The court, however, directed him to give his formulations in a proper manner and argue as to how rules had been violated in the case and adjourned the hearing till today (Tuesday).
The News on November 3, 2010, had reported that some 20 top corporate bosses and lobbyists of two of the world’s largest gold mining groups had been meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, the State Bank governor and others in Islamabad throughout the week, pressing them to quickly hand over one of the world’s biggest gold and copper treasures found in Balochistan at Reko Diq, worth over $260 billion, to their companies, and for peanuts.
Later, Tariq Asad, advocate challenged the case in the apex court. Similarly, 26 senators also filed a joint petition against the leasing out of Reko Diq mines to a foreign company. APP adds: The chief justice observed that the feasibility report was with the Balochistan government since October last year and they were not sharing it with the apex court.