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Baloch organisations warn foreign investors over reviving Reko Diq mines in Balochistan

File photo of Baloch mines (Photo: Quetta Voice)

A number of Baloch outfits have issued warnings to foreign investors in Pakistan from exploiting resources in mineral-rich Balochistan. The warnings come after Pakistan managed to extricate itself from a long-drawn dispute with Canada-based Barrick Gold Corp. over the payment of $11 billion penalty.

Under the settlement with the Canadian company, Pakistan will not have to pay the hefty penalty to Barrick levied by the World Bank after arbitration. Pakistan and Barrick will now develop the Reko Diq mine in Balochistan under a joint 50:50 partnership, after the two signed an agreement earlier this week.

The news of the agreement has elicited warnings from Baloch organisations and distrust by the common Baloch people.

Releasing a statement on Telegram on Wednesday, the Balochistan Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) – an umbrella organisation of numerous like-minded Baloch armed organisations said that it rejects Barrick Gold’s agreement with the Pakistani government. 

Chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), Khalil Baloch issued a statement saying that the mineral deposits of Reko Diq are Baloch national property. The BNM statement says: "we are going through a state of war. Our struggle is for our national independence, national survival, national identity and national resources. Pakistan is an occupying state. It has certainly taken over our land but we as a nation cannot allow an occupying state to sell our resources".

The political Baloch Students Organization Azad (BSO-Azad) issued a statement on Monday, saying: "Foreign investors should not become partners with Pakistan in plundering the Baloch resources". The statement said: "However, it also becomes the responsibility of the foreign investors to carefully consider the ground realities before investing in any war-torn areas, or else the investors will always have to regret their decisions after such agreements".

Mentioning the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), BSO-Azad added that the Baloch have "already rejected such illegal, non-public and occupier-backed investments, a clear example of which is China's CPEC agreement…"

Currently CPEC projects remain stopped after a spate of attacks on Chinese engineers by armed organisations, protesting against 'exploitative development' that do not benefit local populations. Work on power, infrastructure and road projects of the $62 billion CPEC lies suspended after an angry China halted work around mid-2021.

In a tweet, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said: "RD will potentially be the largest gold & copper mine in the world. It will liberate us from crippling debt & usher in a new era of development & prosperity".

Barrick and Pakistan entered into a dispute in 2011 after Islamabad denied the extraction company a licence to mine in Balochistan after it discovered copious deposits of gold and copper in areas bordering Iran and Afghanistan. After negotiations with Barrick, Pakistan has wriggled out from paying the messy penalty when it is under immense economic duress.

Bloomberg news service says that Reko Diq holds one of the largest underdeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world "capable of producing 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold a year for more than half a century".