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Reko Diq is a small town in Chagai Districtmarker, Balochistanmarker, Pakistanmarker, in a desert area 70 kilometres north west 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 Tangav 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 Sarcheshmehmarker in Iranmarker and Escondidamarker in Chilemarker.

Mine

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%).

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 neighbourhood were taken over by the Torontomarker-based Barrick Gold Corporation and the Chilean Antofagasta Minerals. These companies were handed a very lucrative deal. The terms agreed upon show that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Royalties were reduced from the initial four to two per cent. 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 per cent share will be paid to the Balochistan government, but only after it invests 25 per cent 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 per cent interest in the highly prospective Chagai Hills [sic] 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 be 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 Quettamarker 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 per cent of the world's arsenic emissions.

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