ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, after holding a thorough discussion on the mining of copper and gold deposits in Balochistan on Monday, has sought an in-camera briefing on the Reko Diq and Saindak projects.
Chaired by Senator Mohsin Aziz, the meeting was informed by the Petroleum Division officials that the case pertaining to the Reko Diq project was in international courts since the company filed its expenditure claims after the provincial government turned down its leasing request back in 2012.
Senator Mir Kabir Shahi said at that time, the company had demanded Rs6-7 billion against its expenditures, which have now mounted to $11.5-12 billion. He called for strict action against all the signatories of the flawed agreement signed with the company, which has been causing billions of rupees loss to the national exchequer.
He also expressed concerns that no one was allowed to visit the Saindak copper-gold field, so nothing could be said about the exact quantity of the mined minerals. “The project was scheduled to be completed by 2030, but the field went empty by 2018,” he lamented.
The Petroleum Division officials briefed that all activities at the field were well-documented and verified by different government agencies including Customs, Export Promotion Zone Authority (EPZA), Federal Board of Revenue and Directorate General of Mines and Minerals, Balochistan.
They said the commodities entering or taken away from the project area were documented by both EPZA and the Customs authorities at the project site. “The product export from Saindak to Karachi is treated as “bounded consignment,” they informed.
The officials said the Mines Balochistan chief instructor regularly monitored the mining operations to ensure safety and health of workers, besides, technical experts and mining engineers were deployed to monitor the operational activities.
“Mining and extraction of products for sale are weighed and sampled at the laboratories there,” they said, adding that accounts of the contractor were audited by a reputed Pakistani chartered accountant firm appointed in consultation with Saindak Metals Limited (SML).
Between 2003 and 2017, they said, 68.5 million tonnes ore was mined from the site, 0.223 million tonnes blister copper was sold, while the company paid $80.448 million royalty to the provincial government.
Additional Secretary Mian Asad Hayaud Din said the Petroleum Division was going to brief the prime minister on the security issues in some oil and gas exploration blocks, suggesting forming a ‘Special Security Force’, as E&P companies were spending around Rs14 billion annually on the security of their crew and machinery.
The meeting was also informed by the Mari Petroleum Company Limited representatives that it was going to start seismic surveys in Zarghon and Block-28 from March and April respectively, adding that the survey takes approximately one year to complete as per international practice.
The meeting was attended by Senators Mir Kabir Shahi, Lt Gen (r) Salahuddin Tirmizi, Saleem Zia and Shamim Afridi, besides senior officials of the Petroleum Division, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, MOL Pakistan and Mari Petroleum.