AG leaves for US to seek Reko Diq verdict review – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor has left for Washington to seek a review of the decision of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) slapping a $5.9 billion penalty on Pakistan in the terminated Reko Diq mining contract case.

The AG had rushed back to Islamabad from the US to attend last Thursday’s pending case relating to the Gas Development Infrastructure Cess which was fixed before a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam at the government’s request.

But when the case was taken up, the AG informed the bench that he will be flying back to the US on Friday to attend to some crucial legal matters.

Later, he confided to a group of reporters that he is leaving for Washington to prepare and file a revision appeal in the Reko Diq award.

The World Bank tribunal has slapped $5.97bn award against Pakistan

On July 12, 2019, the World Bank tribunal called ICSID had slapped a whopping $5.97bn award against Pakistan that includes $4.08bn as penalty as well as $1.87bn in interest, in its 700-page ruling.

The ICSID was seized with a dispute between Pakistan and Tethyan Copper Company Pvt Limited (TCC) which had claimed $8.5bn for rejection of its application by the Mining Authority of Balochistan for the multimillion dollar lease in 2011.

Earlier, Pakistan had taken up the plea before the tribunal that the agreement /mining licence for the Reko Diq project was procured through corrupt means and therefore, the TCC cannot ask for damages.

But after the announcement of the award Pakistan reacted swiftly with Prime Minister Imran Khan constituting a commission to probe into reasons for this predicament.

The commission was also tasked to probe who were responsible for making Pakistan suffer such a loss and what lessons were learnt, so that mistakes made are not repeated in the future.

Reko Diq is a small desert town in Chagai district of Balochistan and is 70km northwest of Naukundi close to Pakistan’s border with Iran and Afghanistan.

The area is located in Tethyan belt that stretches all the way from Turkey and Iran into Pakistan.

Reko Diq, which means ‘sandy peak’ in Balochi language, is also the name of an ancient volcano and is famous because of its vast gold and copper reserves and is believed to be the world’s fifth largest goldmine.

In an earlier news release by Antofagasta PLC – a joint venture held equally by Chilean and Canadian entities namely Antofagasta and Barrick Gold Corporation – the damages included compensation of $4.08bn by reference to the fair market value of the Reko Diq project at the time of the mining lease denial and $1.87bn interest until the date of the award. In Jan 2013, a Supreme Court bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry while taking up a petition of Dr Abdul Haq Baloch had declared the mining contract to the TCC for the exploration of gold and copper as illegal.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2019

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