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ISLAMABAD: The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, while expressing concern, questioned whether the financial and legal reporting of the Reko Diq project meets the international standard, and will its record going to be accessible in Pakistan.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, on Wednesday, heard the presidential reference on the Reko Diq project.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked when the process of extracting gold, and selling of refined ore will also be outside the country then how it would be known that how much ore was extracted, and how much was sold.

The CJP said that the company is tax-free in Pakistan but paying taxes in Jersey.

Salahuddin Ahmed, the counsel of Balochistan government, told the court that the mechanism is made for transparency and public trust.

He stated there will be an independent audit, whatever is produced in Pakistan and whatever activity related to the project is conducted in Pakistan will be audited.

The court was informed that the payment of the gold explored from Reko Diq will be made to the government of Balochistan through an offshore company in Jersey. Out of the 25 per cent shares of Balochistan, 10 per cent will come directly and 15 per cent through holding companies.

Justice Afridi questioned suppose, if from 400km given to Barrick Gold for mining of gold and copper, other minerals are discovered then would there be a separate lease or it is included in the same lease? Salahuddin told the court that there are separate clauses in the lease agreement, and that can be discussed under the deal.

Justice Jamal inquired will the federal government provide security, and if it does then would it charge from the Balochistan government? The counsel told the court that the government of Pakistan will provide security for the project, but the company will have its own security for its arrangements placed in the area.

Salahuddin said that under Rules 47, 49, and 67 of the Balochistan Mineral Rules, the auction is not mandatory and the exploration licence is given on first come, first served basis. He submitted that the government has tried to be transparent in the reintroduction project, adding the government approached the other companies that have gold and copper mining expertise but they were not interested due to the litigation and the ICSID award. The Barrick Gold knows the condition and the area better, he added.

He told the court that the feasibility study of the project would be conducted in 13 months and in five years the project will be operational. Justice Ijaz questioned if, after five years, Barrick Gold decides not to carry on with the project, then what would happen to the claim of Barrick. Salahuddin replied that the claim will be no more.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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