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Gold, Copper and Rare Earths at Pakistan's Reko Diq Could Exceed $500 Billion


The sale of Reko Diq mining rights is currently being reviewed by Pakistan Supreme Court in response to allegations of lack of transprarency. The entire discussion in the courtroom is primarily centered on valuations and estimates of traditional metals like gold and copper. The second topic of discussion in the apex court is about the absence of any contract provisions for development of downstream job-creating industries to extract these metals.

What is conspicuously absent from the debate is the potential for extraction at Reqo Diq of rare earth elements that are even more precious and in much greater and growing demand for the latest high-tech equipment and batteries for all-electric autos, communications, and other applications than traditional precious metals like gold and silver. It is the estimates of these rare earths at Reqo Diq that could put the value of the contract at considerably more than the current best estimates of $500 billion for copper and gold.

Recent trade disputes between China and its major trading partners in the United States, Europe and Japan have been the result of China restricting rare earth exports.

A current production Toyota Prius nickel metal hydride battery pack uses 30 kilograms of nickel, 2 kilograms of cobalt and 12 kilograms of lanthanum because the active hydrogen storage alloy in the battery is either LaNi4.5Co0.5 or (Ce, La, Nd, Pr)Ni5. The Prius assembly plant in Japan has so far used one and 1.5 million rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs and achieved with them some of the lowest numbers of service issues ever seen in the OEM automotive industry. In fact most of the original Prius rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs have exceeded their 8-year 100,000 mile warranty and are still functioning, according to Resource Investor website.



China controls 95% of the world’s supply of rare earth elements, a class of ores used not just in Toyota Prius electric motors and batteries but in a wide range of high-technology applications, from sonar systems to wind turbines, mobile phones and fluorescent lights.

All this gives China an extraordinary - some might say unfair - advantage to lead the race to dominate the manufacture of cutting-edge technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even before any major technology partnership announcements, there are reports that the legendary US investor Warren Buffet is investing in BYD, an obscure Chinese battery, mobile phone, and electric car company.

Here is how an expert who asked not to be named explained the mining potential in Balochistan:

"The Pegmatite rock that covers much of Balochistan (and other parts of Pakistan as well) has several different gems, in it which have been mined for a long time. These are easy to visualize as they differ in color from the rest of the rock, and can be removed with a small geologist's hammer. Pegmatite, though, also contains uranium which can be separated using a Geiger Counter, and rare metals and rare earths. Some of these like Lithium can be separated relatively easily. Others like Samarium and Dysprosium are vastly more difficult to separate because you need X-Ray equipment to help identify them. Also, their presence is very small - that is why they are classed as "rare." The presence of many of these metals was not known to science until recently and until the Japanese began to use them in electronics, hardly any effort was made to mine them. Now, of course, they are all the rage because they have been found especially useful in the latest "green" generation equipment as well as in defense and other applications. Indeed, until China banned their sale to Japan, no one really even bothered about them - it suited the Japanese to remain quiet as they were getting very good prices for these resources from an unaware Chinese, and the same thing is now happening in other parts of the world, in Pakistan in this case.

Much of the testing that is involved here is difficult and requires very advanced technical equipment, and even methods like gas spectrometry etc may not help identify materials that exist in extremely small percentages in soil or rock. In India for example, some of these metal reserves were not known until the USGS first and then the Russians helped analyze soil and rocks across the country. If nothing else, the Indians formed a government owned company called Indian Rare earths Limited which comes under the Atomic Energy Commission and is directly under the Prime Minister of India. They do seem to have handled the conservation and exploitation of these reserves far better than is being done in Pakistan."


Given the potential for tremendous mineral wealth at Reqo Diq, Saindak and other similar sites in Balochistan and elsewhere in Pakistan, it is extremely important for the Supreme Court to insist on an independent panel of experts to evaluate it, and to base court orders on the findings of such panel. How the Supreme Court tackles these issues now will have a significant impact on the future well-being of Pakistan in terms of the availablity of public funds for spending on education, health care and other badly needed human development projects in Balochistan and elsewhere in the country.

 

Click here for a video clip from GeoTV on Reko Diq.

 
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Mineral Wealth

China's Electric Ambitions

Buffet Investing in Chinese Battery Maker

Remote Sensing Oil and Gas Fields in Pakistan

Pakistan's Mineral Yearbook 2005

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

Abundant, Cheap Coal Electricity in Pakistan

Car Battery Battle Between Li-on and Nickel Metal Hydride

Auto Industry Prospects in India, Pakistan and China

 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on October 16, 2017 at 8:26pm

Azad #Kashmir: #Pakistan’s treasure chest of rubies worth $500 million http://ara.tv/jns9x via @AlArabiya_Eng

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/markets/2017/10/16/Azad-Ka...

The people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) are sitting on a treasure chest: millions of rubies, estimated to be worth up to half a billion dollars, are lying beneath them.

But archaic tools and a lack of investment in infrastructure and techniques are hampering efforts to transform the area into a significant player in the gem industry.

"Mining is done by small blasts – and we lose 40 to 50 percent of the value of the stones, and secondly due to lack of investment in our corporation we are not making the most of our resources," said Shahid Ayub, Azad Kashmir Mine and Industry Development Company director general.

Just one mine and an exploration site are operational in Kashmir.

It's hard labor at more than 3,500 metres above sea level. But for miners working on the mountains, it is valued work.

"I have been working in this mine for the past four years. For the first two years, I worked here as an intern and after that I got a job. We work here four months in a year,” said Muhammad Azeem, a mine worker.

“I have earned enough money to lead a good life," Azeem added.

The rubies are sold in their raw form at a highly-regulated annual auction.

Many change hands informally too. Last year, a government training center was launched to develop the trade.

"We are providing training and assistance to these people about mining and gemstone development. God willing, soon all of them will be able to extract precious stones by themselves. With the availability of skilled workforce in this field, Azad Kashmir will shortly become an international hub of gemstones," said Imran Zaffar, principal Pakistan Gem and Jewellery Training and Processing centre.

The stones are said to account less than one percent of the region's tax revenue. But hopes are high these rubies will one day help Kashmir sparkle in the international gem industry.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 1, 2018 at 11:22am

Economist Magazine: "Just 1% of the vast #Thar #coal reserve discovered in 1992 could supply a fifth of #Pakistan's current #electricity generation for half a century" #CPEC #energy #infrastructure

https://www.economist.com/news/business/21736185-just-1-vast-reserv...

PAKISTAN’s enormous mineral wealth has long lain untapped. Since a 1992 geological survey spotted one of the world’s largest coal reserves in Thar, a scrubby desert in the southern province of Sindh, prospectors have hardly dug up a lump. Among those to flounder is a national hero. Samar Mubarakmand, feted for his role in Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme, has just shut the coal-gasification company he founded in 2010, when he vowed on live television to crack Thar.

---

To such qualms, the government offers three rejoinders. First, severe power shortages have long blighted the nation, and renewable sources cannot offer the daylong, year-round power it needs. Second, coal accounts for less than 1% of current generation, compared with 70% in neighbouring India and China. And third, domestic coal would allow the country to forgo expensive imports of the fuel for newly built power stations, a drain on fast-dwindling foreign-exchange reserves.

---

Eight years ago Engro bought the rights to one of Thar’s 13 blocks, containing 1% of the reserve (more than enough given the gargantuan size of the mine). To work on extraction, it formed the country’s biggest ever public-private partnership, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), in which Engro digs and the state provides infrastructure. Relying on the state can break strong firms. Engro itself almost went bankrupt in 2012 after the government refused to honour a sovereign guarantee to provide gas to one of its fertiliser plants. Yet without similar government support, no other Thar block-owners have secured financing, leaving Engro’s diggers, which began work last year, to move ahead.

The endeavour benefits from being in the group of infrastructure projects that make up the $62bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a hoped-for trade route. Western banks shook their heads when approached about a coal project, so Engro has relied on Chinese financing. Analysts note an irony in China’s promotion of coal abroad as it withdraws from the fuel at home. Handling the extraction at Thar is the China Machinery Engineering Corporation, a state-owned firm with expertise beyond Pakistan’s reach.

Around 126 metres below the sands of Thar, with just 20 more to go, Engro’s diggers can now almost touch their prize. When the coal is reached, as is expected in mid-2018, it will feed a pit-mouth power station constructed by Engro, and, in time, three others owned by partners in the SECMC. These stations will furnish around a fifth of the country’s electricity for the next 50 years. The financial rewards could be vast. “All my richest friends are jumping up and down [because they did not get there first]”, says the boss of one big multinational construction business.

Hurdles remain, not least complaints from nearby villagers about the disposal of the vast quantities of wastewater from the mine on their ancestral grazing lands in the form of a reservoir. In reply, Engro stresses its social work in the surrounding district of Tharparkar, the poorest in Sindh, which includes the construction of several free schools. More self-interestedly, it is training locals to drive so they can man the dump trucks that trundle day and night around the mine. According to Shamsuddin Shaikh, chief executive of Engro Powergen, the conglomerate’s energy division, Engro also has its sights on Reko Diq, a gargantuan and long-stalled copper mine in Balochistan, the least developed of Pakistan’s provinces. To tap one of the country’s two largest and most niggardly mines is hard enough. Imagine cracking them both.


Comment by Riaz Haq on March 11, 2019 at 7:38pm

#Pakistan military eyes key role developing Reko Diq, giant #copper and #gold mine. It has “substantial” #mining capability in recent years. FWO could be part of a consortium alongside global miners who have the know-how to mine such a gargantuan deposit https://reut.rs/2F7eeLh

State-run companies from resource-hungry China have long coveted Reko Diq and more recently Saudi Arabia has shown interest, according to Pakistani officials.

Some Western diplomats say the Reko Diq dispute has been a significant foreign investment deterrent, with international businesses unnerved at how Pakistan dealt with the companies that had pledged to invest $3.3 billion to develop the country’s then-biggest mining project.

Barrick Gold and Antofagasta, whose joint venture Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) discovered vast mineral wealth in Reko Diq, say they had invested more than $220 million by the time the Baluchistan government, in 2011, unexpectedly refused to grant them the critical mining lease needed to keep operating.

Pakistan argued its move was legitimate because TCC’s feasibility study was incomplete and the country’s Supreme Court voided the deal in 2013. But in 2017 the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled against Pakistan.

TCC did not respond to requests for comment and Antofagasta and Barrick Gold both declined to comment. Reuters could not determine whether either company would be willing to return to the project.

FOREIGN INVESTORS
The last serious attempt at settling the Reko Diq case was scuppered in 2016 by the military, which vetoed paying hundreds of millions of dollars to TCC, according to a senior Baluchistan official and two former senior officials in Islamabad.

But the military has since changed its stance and is more open to a settlement with TCC, according to a lawmaker close to the military and a source close to Prime Minister Khan. The military was also involved in appointing Pakistan’s current legal team.

In response to a Reuters question about blocking the previous settlement effort, the military said: “Let’s see how the case progresses.” It did not elaborate or comment on whether it was playing any role in the latest negotiations.

Some mining experts say a likely solution would be for a new investment consortium to pay the settlement fee on behalf of cash-strapped Pakistan in exchange for future royalty fees or mining rights.

China grounds Boeing 737 MAX jets after crash
Information Minister Chaudhry said Pakistan was engaged in negotiations with “both” the current investors about a settlement and also potential new investors, with interest coming from the Middle East and Europe. He declined to name the potential investors.

Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar said in October that Saudi Arabia has inquired about investing in Reko Diq and another government official confirmed talks were ongoing.

Saudi Arabia did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Reko Diq. During Crown Prince bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan last month, the kingdom pledged to invest $2 billion in mineral development projects, though the provisional agreements were vague and did not mention any specific projects.

China’s state-owned miner China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), which operates the Saindak copper and gold mine close to Reko Diq, has been eyeing the bigger deposit for more than a decade, according to mining and MCC officials.

A few years ago Chinese state giant Norinco also made an approach, according to two sources familiar with Norinco’s offer.

MCC and Norinco did not respond to requests for comment.

When a mining company approached former general Abdul Quadir Baloch about Reko Diq around 2016, when he was federal minister for the frontier regions, he took their proposal not only to then-premier Nawaz Sharif, but also to the army chief.

“The military has to give a (security) guarantee to any company coming in to explore or exploit this project, so they are a stakeholder,” said Baloch.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 19, 2019 at 7:21am

#Pakistan fined $5.9 billion over #RekoDiq contract breach. The mine has gold reserves estimated at $100+ billion. #China may make a bid to take over the #gold mine project and pay the penalty in return for long-term lease and exclusive mining rights. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/China-resc...

The possibility of Pakistan seeking assistance from China is emerging after the government was slapped with a $5.95 billion fine in a legal dispute over rights for a copper and gold mine in the country.

Tethyan Copper had filed a case against Pakistan with the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2012 for violating an agreement that the company signed with Pakistan for exploration and mining of the Reko Diq mine.

The court issued its decision in 2017 in favor of Tethyan Copper, a joint venture between Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile, with hearings continuing to determine the amount of damages to be paid by Pakistan. On Saturday, the court announced that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan must pay a total fine of $5.9 billion -- a $4.08 billion penalty and $1.87 billion in interest.

Legal experts say Pakistan cannot appeal the court's decision and that it can only apply for technical review, whereby the government can ask the court to review the amount of damages. That process could take up to three years, which would offer Pakistan more time before the fine is due.

The amount of damages Pakistan has been ordered to pay is nearly equal to the recently approved bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.

The damages also are twice the amount of Balochistan's annual budgeted expenditures, which means Pakistan in all likelihood will have to look quickly for payment options. One of the strongest options, according to analysts, is its northern neighbor: China.

Reko Diq sits in Pakistan's southwest Balochistan province, at the triangular border with Iran and Afghanistan. The mine has gold reserves with an estimated value of more than $100 billion.

Work at Reko Diq has been suspended since 2011, when Pakistan rejected the application of Tethyan Copper to mine the area. Before that, Pakistan and Tethyan Copper agreed that the company would conduct a feasibility study under an exploration license and that it would apply for a mining license to carry out the mining.

The board chairman of Tethyan Copper, William Hayes, has said that his company is ready to enter a settlement for a mutually beneficial solution with Pakistan. That could pave the way for a third party like China to help settle the case.

"Given the ever-growing domestic consumption of gold in China and Beijing's interest in investing in gold and copper mining industries abroad, I won't be surprised if China makes a bid to take over the Reko Diq gold mine project and offers to pay the penalty in return for long-term lease and exclusive ownership rights," said Mohan Malik, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 2, 2019 at 7:33am

World Bank ruling against Pakistan shows global economic governance is broken


http://theconversation.com/world-bank-ruling-against-pakistan-shows...


The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes was established in 1966 as part of the World Bank Group. The centre oversees arbitrations between foreign companies and states in a process known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

ISDS is hugely controversial for a variety of reasons ranging from the secrecy of the hearings to the substantial costs associated with defending a claim and the ability of corporations to challenge health and environmental measures.

The case that cost Pakistan $5.8 billion did not revolve around such measures but rather the decision of a provincial government to backtrack on a sweetheart deal that had been offered to a mining firm, allegedly the result of corruption. Leaving the merits of the case to one side — it is difficult to assess the tribunal’s reasoning when the award isn’t public, after all — let’s take a closer look at the payout.

According to the mining company — Tethyan Copper, partially owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold — it spent US$220 million on exploration activities before things went south. One might argue that a fair outcome, if the government was solely to blame, would be for the award to cover these sunk costs. Instead it was more than 25 times that amount. That is because the tribunal chose to award the company “lost future profits” from the project.

Arbitrators don’t have crystal balls. They don’t know what the value of a mineral will be in a year, let alone 30 years. And they are lawyers, not market analysts. So how do they decide how much profit a firm would have made in a hypothetical alternative future?

The answer is, partially, that they rely on “experts” brought in by each of the parties to the dispute. These experts provide a best guess for what they think a project is worth. International law scholar Robert Howse calls this “junk science.”

Unsurprisingly, the state’s expert often provides a low-ball estimate for the value of a project and the investor’s expert gives an inflated value. Faced with this discrepancy, arbitrators will often choose to go down the middle and pick an arbitrary value. Tethyan Copper had originally sought more than US$11 billion in damages, suggesting that the tribunal in this case may have taken this approach.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 9, 2019 at 9:32am

#Pakistan's Golden Opportunity in #Balochistan. It has large deposits of #gold, #copper, #chromite, #bauxite (aluminum), iron ore, rubies, emeralds, topaz, mineral salt and coal located in Balochistan whose land area is the same as Germany's https://stratforshare.page.link/9EMa via @Stratfor

Highlights
Until Pakistan and the Tethyan Copper Co. settle their dispute, development of the country's Reko Diq gold and copper mine will languish, leaving a potentially abundant revenue stream dry.
Growing foreign investment in the sector will heighten the need for an effective dispute resolution mechanism.
Unless Pakistan implements the necessary reforms to attract foreign investment, the country's mining sector will not grow beyond its current 3 percent contribution to Pakistan's gross domestic product.

In a remote and arid corner of southwestern Pakistan, Islamabad has found itself embroiled in a difficult battle: a multibillion-dollar dispute with a global mining company over one of the world's richest untapped deposits of copper and gold. In July, the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ordered Pakistan to pay $5.9 billion in damages to the Tethyan Copper Co., a joint venture between Canada's Barrick Gold Corp. and Chile's Antofagasta PLC. The ruling stems from a 2012 case that Tethyan lodged at the ICSID against Islamabad for failing to issue a license to mine gold and copper at the Reko Diq site.

The case draws attention to the rich resources of Balochistan, Pakistan's rugged southwestern frontier in which Reko Diq is located, as well as the tug of war between domestic Pakistani law and international arbitration in resolving investor disputes. But above all, the Reko Diq affair shines a light on Pakistan's numerous underground resources and its broader failure to exploit them — something that will continue to haunt the country if it is to fulfill Prime Minister Imran Khan's goal of rapidly ramping up foreign investment.

The Big Picture
Pakistan's Balochistan province plays a vital role in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor because of its location on the Arabian Sea. It's also known for its resource riches that include an abundance of gold and copper deposits. But a longstanding dispute between the government and a mining company point to the need for reforms, without which mining's contribution to Pakistan's economy won't exceed 3 percent.


.....Its strategically located coastline faces vital shipping lanes in the Arabian Sea, including traffic destined for the Strait of Hormuz. As a result, Balochistan is the site of a variety of projects as part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which aims to create a direct overland route linking western China and the Arabian Sea through Balochistan's port of Gwadar. At the same time, however, Balochistan is also home to an insurgent movement that seeks independence from Pakistan on cultural and economic grounds; indeed, Chinese investment in Balochistan has exacerbated long-standing separatist grievances of foreign exploitation in the province. 

The mine itself is located in Chagai, Pakistan's largest and westernmost district. According to Tethyan, Reko Diq contains 2.2 billion metric tons of mineable ore that could yield 200,000 metric tons of copper and 250,000 troy ounces of gold annually for over half a century. To extract the precious metals, the company must shovel, crush and grind the ore into a fine powder before converting it into a slurry concentrate for transport through a 682-kilometer underground pipeline to Gwadar. At the port, the company plans to dry the concentrate before loading it onto ships for smelting abroad.

But for all of its lucrative potential — $353 million annually at current gold and copper rates — the development of Reko Diq has stagnated because of the long-running legal battle that culminated in last month's $5.9 billion fine.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 25, 2019 at 10:58am

#Pakistan's top biz tycoons, incl. Arif Habib, M.A. Tabba & Yunus Bros offer to take over Reko Diq, among the largest underdeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, with annual production capacity of 200,000 tons #copper and 250,000 oz of #gold.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-25/pakistan-s-tycoo...

Reko Diq is one of the largest underdeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, capable of producing each year 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold.

Pakistan’s top business tycoons have offered to take over a disputed copper and gold deposit that was once explored by Barrick Gold Corp. and Antofagasta Plc, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials at the provincial Balochistan government are said to have met with a consortium of four business groups including tycoons Arif Habib and Muhammad Ali Tabba who are willing to invest about $1 billion of their own cash in the project, the people said, asking not to be named because the discussions are private. The consortium is willing to go through a bidding process to take over the project, the people said. Pakistan’s provincial government spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.


An international tribunal run by the World Bank in July ordered Pakistan to pay $5.8 billion in damages to Barrick Gold and Antofagasta after the country denied them a license to develop the Reko Diq mine in 2011. Collecting the funds though may be a challenge, given Pakistan’s fragile economic state. The damages almost match the International Monetary Fund’s $6 billion bailout for Pakistan earlier this year to help the South Asian nation avert an economic crisis.


The provincial chief minister has expressed a preference for Pakistani companies to take over the mine, the Dawn newspaper reported earlier this month. The business groups that showed interest in the mining project are: Yunus Brothers Group that owns Lucky Cement Ltd., Arif Habib Group, Fatima Group and the owners of Liberty Power Tech Ltd., the people said. The four are being led by Shamsuddin Shaikh, who spearheaded a group of companies to mine coal from Pakistan’s Thar desert for the first time.


Reko Diq is one of the largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, capable of producing 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold a year for more than half a century, according to a feasibility study before the dispute. The capital investment at the time would have exceeded $3 billion.

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