Canadian firm starts work on Balochistan’s Reko Diq mines

Baloch rebel organisations have not reacted to the latest news on Barrick Gold starting its work in the province. ..writes Rahul Kumar

Canadian mining company Barrick Gold has started work on the Reko Diq mine project in Balochistan. In a ceremony at the Chief Minister’s secretariat on Sunday, CEO Mark Bristow announced that the company has set-up an office in Quetta, Balochistan capital.

The event was attended by Chief Minister Balochistan Quddus Bizenjo, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Sardar Babar Musakhail, Opposition Leader Malik Sikandar Khan and local leaders. Bristow briefed the CM and other leaders about “the extensive social and economic development opportunities that would be generated by the mine, which is expected to have a life of at least 40 years.”

In a press release, the company said: “it plans to finish the Reko Diq feasibility study update by the end of 2024, with 2028 targeted for first production from the giant copper-gold mine in the country’s Balochistan province.”

Acutely aware of the local conditions in Balochistan-poverty, coupled with suspicion of foreign investments, the Barrick Gold CEO said that the company plans to establish an amicable and working relationship with local communities, adding that it will make more investments in the future to uplift the communities.

The Canada-based miner was invited by the previous government of Imran Khan to mine copper and gold deposits from the mineral-rich Balochistan province. Since then, the country has proceeded with caution to pave the way for Barrick Gold to operate in the conflict-prone region. Pakistan has taken a series of legal and legislative steps to ensure that there are no hurdles in the way of the corporation.

The deal also allowed Pakistan to extricate itself from a long-drawn international dispute with Barrick Gold over the payment of $11 billion penalty. After signing the deal, Pakistan will not have to pay the penalty to the Canada-based corporation.

In the ceremony at Quetta, Bristow said that the company will try to inculcate a sense of partnership and ownership among the locals by giving them an opportunity to participate in the project. He added that the company will also transfer $3 million to the Balochistan government this month.

The company had provided flood relief to the province during the devastating monsoon in 2022 in the country. However, the nationalist organisations and the rebel groups are against the project as they feel it will turn into another exploitative project like the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Baloch rebel organisations have not reacted to the latest news on Barrick Gold starting its work in the province. However, on numerous occasions earlier, they have already made their position clear that they will oppose any mining or exploitation of their natural resources.

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