Pakistan declares mining lease void

AFP-JIJI

Pakistan’s top court Monday declared invalid a lease for one of the world’s richest deposits of gold and copper held by a Canadian-Chilean consortium that includes Vancouver-based giant Barrick Gold.

Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, and Chile’s Antofagasta Minerals, each own a 37.5 percent share, as the Tethyan Copper Co.

Their plan was to build a copper and gold open-pit mine at Reko Diq in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, the most deprived part of Pakistan, rife with Taliban, sectarian and separatist violence.

Barrick and Antofagasta say the proposed plant could produce 600,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold a year, but in 2011 work came to a standstill after the local government refused to renew the consortium’s mining lease.

Reasons for the dispute are murky, but some analysts suggest that China, a close Pakistan ally, is also interested.