National Engineering and Scientific Commission Chairman Dr Samar Mubarak Mand’s statement to the Supreme Court, about the Reko Diq project, sheds an entirely new light on it, and converts it from a mere financial scam involving the government, to a violation of the national interest. That was perhaps an essential part of a scam involving the country’s natural resources, but this pronouncement by the country’s leading nuclear and missile scientist, threw into sharp relief the fact that the project was not just about gold, but also about copper, which is much cheaper, but which is much more used in all sorts of activity, and none of which is being provided from the Saindak project. Dr Mubarak Mand told the Court, which was hearing petitions against the mining project, that the Commission had the expertise to run the project.
Dr Mubarik Mand said that the joint venture formed by a Canadian and a Chilean firm wanted to take raw gold and copper ore out of the country, and there was no provision for the downstream industries of Pakistan.Dr Mubarak Mand’s testimony has shed a new, and probably garish, light on the project, which became controversial when it was revealed that the Presidency had become involved.
However, the reason for the Supreme Court’s taking up the case was writ petitions by concerned citizens. Dr Mubarak Mand said the joint venture thought it should pay the Balochistan government about $160 million a year, and the profits over the 56-year life of the mine would be $131.824 billion, based on the processing of 5000 tons of ore a day. Quite apart from the fate of the petition before the Supreme Court, the wisdom of allowing the project needs to be rethought. Especially in such a sensitive province, already restive about resources going away from it, any project must be evaluated not just for commercial viability, but also for impact on the local population. Rather than wait for them to go to court, it would be better to make them participants in the process at the beginning, so as to remove any grounds for complaint later – Nation