Australia’s third largest bank has committed to offer a $100 billion bid for the Reko Diq gold and copper mines in Pakistan, in collaboration with a US mining company, if international tenders were called again by the Balochistan or federal government.
According to officials in Quetta a proposal has been submitted to the provincial authorities as a solution to the current impasse, which is being heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP).
The SCP is hearing the case in the backdrop of an arbitration case filed by the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) in the International Court after TCC was thrown out of the project and denied the mining licence by the Balochistan Government.
Sources declined to give details of the Australian proposal because the case was being heard by the SC but said if the apex court so wanted, it could ask the Balochistan government to provide the details of the offer and consider it as part of an overall solution.
A strong panel of lawyers is contesting the Pakistani case in the International Court of Arbitration but simultaneously the Supreme Court is also hearing the case and may make a decision soon. A hearing was held last week and the court has summoned Petroleum and Natural Resources adviser Dr Asim Hussain to appear in the next hearing.
Dr Samar Mubarakmand and a representative of the Tethyan Copper Company also appeared in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Australian-US proposal is based on the fact that gold prices have quadrupled in the last two years from $400 to $1700 per ounce and in the present market situation they could offer at least $100 billion for a period of up to 35 years while the Tethyan Copper Company had offered only $54 billion in 56 years.
Experts say the Reko Diq mines will be fully consumed in less than 30 years and the earlier offers by the Canadian and Chilean companies had kept this in mind so that these mining companies could take the full benefit in the first half of their licence and then leave the project under any pretext when nothing would be left to extract.
Sources in Islamabad said the Tethyan Copper Company was lobbying hard with all top people to find a way back to get the project as the company knows the real potential of the mines which has not been disclosed to either the government of Pakistan or Balochistan.
Mining experts say an easier solution could be found if the mine was offered for international bidding again in which the Tethyan Copper Company may also be allowed to bid and if they have the highest bid they could be given the job.
The SCP meanwhile is likely to find the best solution in the complicated case so that Pakistan is also spared of fighting a case in the international court and work on the mines could begin as soon as possible in the interest of all the parties.