Pakistan has been blessed with enormous mineral wealth, particularly in Balochistan. In the early fifties, an Australian company had evaluated these assets and concluded that if Pakistan could exploit these mineral resources, it could emerge as one of the richest nations in the world.

Over 74 countries of the world are engaged in mining to varying degree, but Pakistan is not even mentioned in this list. Saindak was the first mining undertaking of Pakistan, but it has turned out to be a disaster, giving no benefits to the people of Balochistan in particular and Pakistan in general. It was very heartening to see that the Government of Balochistan in the nineties, in spite of alarming law and order situation, were able to attract world giants in mining to invest in exploration at Reko Diq to find some valuable minerals.

Under this agreement, the developers after strenuous efforts spread over many years and spending about $260 million, discovered low-grade mineable ore containing 0.5 percent copper and 0.3 grams per ton gold. The development of the mine and processing facilities would be completed in four years at a cost of $33 billion and with a working capital of about $2.2 billion. The project is expected to yield 2.2 billion pounds (10,000,000 tons) of copper and 13 million ounces of gold. The preliminary estimates indicate that the income from this project in a period of 56 years could yield from $500 billion to over a trillion.

During the development stage, 11,500 direct jobs and over 50,000 indirect jobs will be created and 98 percent of these jobs will be taken up by Pakistanis, mostly local people from Balochistan. It is not difficult to imagine what an economic revolution the completion of this project would bring for the well being of the people of Balochistan and, indeed, Pakistan. It is our firm belief that the successful completion of the Reko Diq project is as important for the financial health of Balochistan and Pakistan as were the Kahuta and uranium extraction for the defence of Pakistan.

However, there has been a mad rush of misconceptions and misinformation being spread. That it is feared that this vital and mega mining project may be sacrificed at the altar of intellectual dishonesty, greed and pumped-up righteousness.

The detractors have been spreading the notion that rules were relaxed by the Balochistan government, while entering into the agreement with the developers. We would like to quote: “The laws, which can be defined as a system of standards and rules defining the rights and obligations of the members of civil society, are made to regulate the activities and functions of its members in an orderly manner. The laws are, however, frequently changed to reflect the changes in society’s needs and attitudes. The courts are there to see that the laws are observed and justice has generally been the law’s guiding principle.”

The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan was framed by the best legal and political minds, yet it has already seen 19 Amendments. Instead of blaming the Baloch officials, they should not only be praised, but also highly rewarded for successfully attracting the two world giants to invest in a mining project in Pakistan. Balochistan government had, so far, given 24 exploration leases. Instead of sabotaging the development of Reko Diq, let the same conditions be applied to all other exploration lessees.

The successful implementation of projects, like Reko Diq, require monumental financial resources and commitment from the government like it was provided to Kahuta. No matter in what fantasy world some self-proclaimed experts live, the needed local financial resources for its development will never become available.

Let us also make it very clear that governments, do not directly get involved in the development of mining projects, like Reko Diq, because these are very high risk (one in 100 is the success rate), require high quality know-how and experience, mega investments and finally international marketing placements to earn maximum dividends, which can be secured only through the participation of high-profile international players.

It must be remembered that in the mining industry, the lease period is determined keeping in mind the manageable disposal of waste earth that is more than 99 percent of the extracted ore. After mining finishes, the mine area must undergo rehabilitation. Waste dumps, which are enormous by any standards, must be contoured to flatten them to further stabilise them. If the ore contains sulphides, it is required to be covered with a layer of clay to prevent access of rain and oxygen from air, which can oxidise the sulfides to create sulfuric acid - a phenomenon known as “acid mine drainage”. This is then covered with fertile soil and vegetation is planted to help consolidate the material. No such essential rehabilitation has been done at Saindak.

It is also the practice world over that those who find and drill out a mineral resource are entitled to mine them out and according to the laws of the country, pay taxes and royalty to the State and federal government. .

In the mining industry, after the processing of the ore in the smelters, it is the concentrate that is the end product. The 30 percent concentrate will be prepared at the processing plant in Chagi and then sold through international tendering. Its analysis will be known to all concerned. All that is needed is to ensure that the Pakistani staff working in the laboratories at Chagi do not sell themselves too cheaply. Otherwise, nobody will be able to steal anything.

If anyone, in Pakistan, thinks that he can set up a smelter for the final refining of the concentrate from Reko Diq and operate it profitably, he must do so and make a great living for himself. It may be a very good omen for Pakistan, but for God’s sake do not jeopardise the whole project.

We know there are lot many people who will not hesitate to claim what they are capable of doing, but Reko Diq needs those who have already handled such projects successfully.

    The writer is a professional engineer with a PhD degree in structural engineering from Cornell University, an Ivy League School, and has played important role in the implementation of many classified projects.