SC annuls Reko Diq lease agreement


The Supreme Court on Monday declared the Reko Diq agreement null and void and in conflict with the country’s law.
In its ruling, the three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said the agreement reached on July 23, 1993 was in conflict with the laws of the country.
The SC has been hearing the case consisting of identical petitions filed against the federal government’s decision to lease out gold and copper reserves in Reko Diq in Balochistan’s Chaghai district to Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), a Canadian and Chilean consortium of Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals.
Reko Diq sits over the popular Tethyan copper belt and is known to have the fifth largest deposits of gold and copper in the world. The bench added that all amendments made per the agreement after its signing were unlawful and in contradiction with the agreement. In its 16-page short order, the court moreover admitted for hearing the petitions that had been filed pertaining to the agreement.
The operative part of the order said: “The Chaghai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement dated 23.07.1993 is held to have been executed contrary to the provisions of the Mineral Development Act, 1948, the Mining Concession Rules, 1970 framed there under, the Contract Act, 1872, the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, etc, and is even otherwise not valid, therefore, the same is declared to be illegal, void and non est. The Addendum No 1 dated 04.03.2000, Option Agreement dated 28.04.2000, Alliance Agreement dated 03.04.2002 and Novation Agreement dated 01.04.2006, which are based upon, and emanate from the CHEJVA, are also held to be illegal and void.”
“All these instruments do not confer any right on BHP, MINCOR, TCC, TCCP, Antofagasta or Barrick Gold in respect of the matters covered therein. It is further held that EL-5 is tantamount to exploration contrary to rules and regulations as the claim of TCCP is based on CHEJVA, which document itself has been held to be non est. Therefore, before exploration it was incumbent upon it to have sought rectification of its legal status.”
It should be mentioned here that the court had accepted for hearing a number of identical petitions filed in the court against the lease of gold and copper mines in Reko Diq, Chaghai, to the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC).
During the last hearing, TCC’s counsel Khalid Anwar defended the lease deal reached between the company and the Balochistan government. The TCC also invoked the jurisdiction of the International Chambers for Commerce and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes against the government of Pakistan for not renewing the prospective Reko Diq minerals licence in accordance with Balochistan Mining Rules 2002.
Earlier in December 2012, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) had given a go-ahead to the Balochistan government and prominent nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand to carry out the mining and smelting project in Reko Diq area.
The ICSID had rejected the TCC’s demand for ‘provisional measures’ for ‘protecting’ two of its deposit areas.
Cases pertaining to Reko Diq mining lease dispute are being heard in courts for the past five years.