By: Naveed Taj Ghouri
The current turmoil in Pakistan, thousands of journalists, attorneys, opposition leaders, and human rights NGO members, has thus far not impacted the Antofagasta/ Barrick Reko Diq joint venture advanced exploration project. A conspiracy to gain 75% of all the reserves, gold, copper and whatever they find…
Update: People who wonder why the US is so much after Balochistan Area and why now talking about Drones at Quetta, because its all business and game for reserves of Balochistan. Read the exclusive Urdu Report which has been already published in Urdu.
Reko Diq is a small town in Chagai District, Balochistan, Pakistan, in a desert area 70 kilometers northwest of Naukundi, near to the Iran-Afghan border.
Reko Diq, also the name of an ancient volcano, literally means sandy peak, but this is something of a misnomer. It could be called Tanga Diq, or gold peak, because according to development expert Syed Fazl-e-Haider, below the sands lie some 12.3 million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold. The copper-gold deposits at Reko Diq are believed to be even bigger than those of Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile.
What is the Reko Diq Project?
The Reko Diq project is a large copper-gold porphyry resource on the Tethyan belt, located in the dry desert conditions of southwest Pakistan within the remote and sparsely populated province of Baluchistan. The Tethyan belt is a prospective region for large gold-copper porphyries.
Reko Diq is a giant copper and gold project in Chaghi. The main license (EL5) is held jointly by the Government of Balochistan (25%), Antofagasta Minerals (37.5%) and Barrick Gold (37.5%).
Actually, Barrick has a 50% interest in Tethyan Copper Company (the other 50% is owned by Antofagasta plc), which has a 75% interest in the Reko Diq project and associated mineral interests (for a resulting 37.5% interest in Reko Diq).
As of December 31, 2008, Barrick’s share of measured and indicated and inferred gold resources are 8.5 and 8.4 million ounces respectively. Barrick’s share of measured and indicated and inferred copper resources are 11.5 and 8.5 billion pounds respectively.
A further 14 mineralized porphyry bodies are known to exist, with the potential to place the Reko Diq Project among the largest undeveloped copper resources on the globe.
The TCC has estimated annual production of 200 to 500 million copper tones from the project. The Company started the Reko-Diq copper project in 2003 with an investment of US $130 million. The project is faced with an acute shortage of water for having no surface flow. The expected mining operations in Reko Diq will depend on sub-surface water with the exploration of underground water potential in the region being a pre-requisite for any mining project.
The Real Face of Barrick Gold:
In a reader poll conducted by the Censored News blog; Readers, primarily Indigenous Peoples, voted Monsanto as the second Worst Company in the World. Peabody Energy Corp., recently granted a life of mine permit to expand coal mining on Navajo and Hopi lands, was voted the third Worst Company in the World.
Barrick Gold Corp., which began the destruction of the Western Shoshone’s Mount Tenabo region during Thanksgiving, was voted the fourth Worst Company in the World. Blackwater Worldwide, responsible for murders and brutality worldwide, was voted the fifth Worst Company in the World.
Barrick Gold, responsible for the deaths of Indigenous Peoples around the world, began its onslaught on the sacred lands of the Western Shoshone at Mount Tenabo during the Thanksgiving holidays. Before leaving office, President Bush Sr. made it possible for Barrick to lease lands for gold mining in Nevada. Once out of office, Bush Sr. went to work for Barrick as a senior consultant.
Protestors gathered outside of Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting last year to show their solidarity with the affected indigenous community representatives who were inside the meeting voicing their complaints to the company shareholders.
In Australia, DR Congo, Ghana, Tanzania, and New Guinea, Indigenous Peoples are fighting Barrick’s destruction in solidarity with the Western Shoshone. They are fighting the coring out of mountains for minute particles of gold and the poisoning of water with cyanide leaching.
Carrie Dann and other Western Shoshone grandmothers said the United States is trespassing on Western Shoshone treaty land, destroying mountains, trees, food, and medicine, while leaving dirty polluted water ponds for birds and animals.
“Why doesn’t the mining company go dig up the Vatican or the Mormon Tabernacle instead of Western Shoshone lands, I’m sure they will find gold there,” said Mary McCloud, Western Shoshone grandmother, mourning the bulldozing of the pines near the ceremonial grounds on Mount Tenabo in November.
Near the Porgera mine in New Guinea, Jethro Tulin of the Akali Tange Association, told Barrick Gold, “Your security guards have been shooting and killing our people and raping, even gang-raping, our women with impunity for years now.”
Sydney residents also raised concerns about cyanide.
In 2007, Concerned citizens have gathered at Chullora in western Sydney to protest against the multinational mining company Barrick Gold.
The protest was part of an International Day of Action against the company.
Barrick Gold has mines across the globe, including North and South America, Africa and Australia.
The rise of Barrick Gold in Pakistan:
The Jewish Company working there stats that the pre-feasibility study is expected to be finalized in the third quarter of 2009. Work on the feasibility study has commenced and is expected to be completed in early 2010.
Barrick bought a stake in the Reko Dig copper-gold project in Pakistan for $100 million in February from Antofagasta PLC, a Chilean mining group.
In 2007, When CEO Greg Wilkins went to Islamabad in connection with that project, Munk said, he was received by both Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and President Pervez Musharraf.
Although the company’s assessment of opportunities in that country is still in the early days, Wilkins said Barrick would be “very interested” in more projects there, despite challenges posed by the presence of al-Qaida in some of its regions.
According to Mineweb.com… What is believed to be one of the world’s largest reserves of gold and copper were discovered last year in the Chaghi area in Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan Province. The Balochistan government has a 25% share while Barrick Gold has obtained 50% of the Reko Diq project. Reko Diq is believed to contain 12.3 million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold in inferred and indicated resources. Some surveys have suggested that Reko Diq may contain as much as 11 billion pounds of copper and nine million ounces of gold.
BHP Billiton, which was involved in the project at an earlier date, also believed Reko Diq may have the potential to yield copper resources that may eventually make it a multi-billion project. Antofagasta is now a 50-50 partner with Barrick. If the project is successful, it may have the potential to generate a mining industry in Pakistan.
An estimated US$46 million project budget includes a scoping study and initial pre-feasibility costs. The scoping study has been completed for the Western Porphyries with an updated resource anticipated at year-end Barrick Executive Vice President, Exploration and Project Development, Alex Davidson told analysts last week.
While Riko was initially envisioned as a 72,000 tpd operation, Davidson said the joint ventures partners are now examining “significantly greater outputs.”
In an e-mail, Monday to Mineweb, Barrick Senior Vice President Vince Borg said, “Our project staff in Islamabad are safe, which is the paramount concern wherever we operate, and we are in regular contact with them.” He noted that Reko Diq is in a very remote location, Baluchistan, “and work on the site is continuing.”
“We will obviously continue to monitor the situation,” Borg concluded.
BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, started this project with the Australian firm Tethyan, entering into a joint venture with the Balochistan government and estimating an annual production of 200 to 500 million pounds of copper. A large number of porphyry rocks are also known to exist.
The interests of the Australian company in Reko Diq and its neighborhood were taken over by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation and the Chilean Antofagasta Minerals. These companies were handed a very lucrative deal. The terms agreed upon a show that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Royalties were reduced from the initial four to two percent. Terms for the provision of cost-free land for an airport and a 400 km Reko Diq-Gwadar road were accepted. An unjust clause is that a 25 percent share will be paid to the Balochistan government, but only after it invests 25 percent in the project.
Antofagasta’s net assets at the end of 2007 grew to almost $5bn. In December 2005 it said: “Tethyan’s principal assets are a 75 percent interest in the highly prospective Chagai Hills region of North West Pakistan known as Reko Diq, including the Tanjeel Mineral Resource. This mining district hosts significant copper-gold porphyry deposits as part of an extended copper-gold belt. Total indicated and inferred mineral resource estimates at these properties are 1,213 million tonnes with a copper grade of 0.58% and a gold grade of 0.28 grams per tonne. Estimates include probable reserves at the Tanjeel of 128.8 million tonnes with a copper grade of 0.7%.”
According to Rob Maguire of the Dominion paper, Barrick is the foremost gold mining corporation in the world, with sales exceeding $2.6bn in 2005 and the largest reserves in the industry, at nearly 90 million ounces. Proponents of this project state that the mines will create thousands of high paying jobs and give a massive boost to the local economy. However, the main fear many have is that revenues generated by this project will be squandered by corrupt officials. Therefore it is imperative that a mechanism is evolved to ensure that revenues generated actually lead to better infrastructure, education, and health.
These corporations have outsourced services to Pakistani contractors such as ROCKMORE PVT LIMITED, Security 2000, Zia ul Haq & Company, and foreign companies like Capital Drilling & Zain Drilling Company. In April 2008, Zain Drilling Company terminated the services of forty drilling assistants and recruited novices and non-locals. The AZAT Foundation has tried to protect their rights, and on June 14, 2008, a well-attended demonstration was held outside the Quetta Press Club.
There are many advocates of such mega projects who claim that the Baloch have benefited from their trickle-down effect. However, mining uses sodium cyanide, arsenic and other chemicals which produce toxic by-products. According to Marcel Claude, vice-president of the international environmental group Oceana, gold mining dumps 79 tonnes of waste for every 28 grams of gold and produces 96 percent of the world’s arsenic emissions.