Supreme Court declares Reko Diq agreement as per law
Announces 13-page short order: Says contract not against apex court’s 2013 judgement: Says international company assured about the protection of workers’ rights and it is agreed that indigenous labour will be hired: Observes project is not for individual
December 9, 2022 01:59 PM
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the new Reko Diq agreement legal, ruling that there is nothing illegal in the contract that has reached between the federal and Balochistan governments and Barrick Gold Corporation, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
Announcing its judgment on the presidential reference on Friday, the apex court maintained that the provinces could amend the laws relating to minerals.
A five-judge larger bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial had on November 29 reserved its opinion on the presidential reference wherein the government sought opinions on two questions: Is the deal with the complainant company, TCC, compliant with the apex court’s earlier judgment in the Maulvi Abdul Haq case? Second, is the proposed Investment Protection Act compliant with the Constitution?
The Supreme Court in its ruling today declared the new Reko Diq agreement legal. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Bandial read out a 13-page short verdict.
According to the judgement, the federal and provincial governments entered into an agreement after taking opinion of the experts. The Balochistan Assembly was taken into confidence on the agreement and the elected public representatives did not object to the agreement.
The international company has assured that the rights of workers would be fully taken care of. It has also been assured that investments will be made in social projects from Reko Diq project. The Reko Diq agreement is not for individual but it is for Pakistan.
The judgement further says that the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have made a law for the development of mineral resources. The Constitution of Pakistan does not allow any law under which an agreement is made against the national assets. The provinces could amend laws related to minerals.
It is stated in the verdict that for the Reko Diq project, the labour will be taken mostly from Pakistan. It says that the new Reko Diq agreement is not against the Supreme Court verdict announced in 2013. Justice Yahya Afridi did not answer the question whether the agreement was in public interest or not.
Barrister Ferogh Naseem, Salman Akram Raja and Zahid Ibrahim helped the court as amicus curiae. After 17 hearings, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement on November 29, the judgement concluded.
The Roko Diq project was originally signed in 2006 between Balochistan government which has 25% shares and Canada’s Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta which have 37.5% shares each. These two international firms were part of the consortium Tethyan Copper company. They found vast gold and copper deposits at Reko Diq in Balochistan. But in 2011, the Balochistan government declined to renew the Tethyan Copper Company lease agreement and the Supreme Court in 2013 declared it invalid.
The Tethyan Copper Company took the matter to the WB arbitration tribunal committee in 2019 which slapped a penalty on Pakistan.
However, in March, the federal and Balochistan governments reached an agreement with two international firms — Antofagasta PLC and Barrick Gold Corporation — on a framework to reconstitute the Reko Diq project that allowed Antofagasta to make an exit.
On October 18, President Dr Arif Alvi moved a reference seeking the apex court’s opinion on the proposed reconstitution of Reko Diq project in Balochistan and interpretation on whether its 2013 judgement in the case prevented the federal and provincial governments from entering into the implementation agreement and the constitutionality of the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill 2022.
Balochistan CM hails decision
The Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo hailed the Supreme Court decision.
Taking to his Twitter handle, the Balochistan chief minister said: “The decision of the Honorable Supreme Court on the new Reko Diq agreement is quite welcoming for the country and Balochistan. It is an acknowledgment of our determination and efforts to protect the economic independence and resources of the province. This is another historic decision for which we are grateful to God Almighty.”
Reporter Amanat Gishkori