After completing nearly a dozen and half hearings, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday opined that provinces can alter laws related to mineral resources and said that the Reko Diq copper and gold mining deal did not violate its 2013 decision.
The deal was signed between the Pakistan government and two international firms in March - when Imran Khan was at the helm - for the revival of the long-stalled mining project.
Reko Diq is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold mines. The project is being restarted after remaining on hold since 2011.
The five-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial rendered its opinion on the Reko Diq agreement.
The top court gave the ruling on a reference sent by President Arif Alvi under Article 186 of the Constitution in the Reko Diq Project on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The president sought the apex court’s opinion whether a new deal on the Reko Diq project was legally safe under the Constitution of Pakistan and international arbitration.
Notably, Barrick Gold opted for an out-of-court settlement with Pakistan earlier this year to withdraw the case from an international arbitration court.
However, the nod from the top court was a prerequisite for resumption of mining.
“The Balochistan Assembly was also given a briefing on the deal. The Reko Diq agreement is also valid in environmental terms,” read the order.
The court in its ruling said that the Constitution ensures disposal of public assets under due process only.
Although Pakistan had been slapped a whooping fine of $9 billion in the Reko Diq case by international courts though it was later set off, the Supreme Court observed that the federal government abided by the Constitution and the law when signing the new deal.
The federal and provincial governments had signed an agreement after taking the opinion of the international legal experts, said the top court.
Moreover, the court added that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh enacted laws regarding mineral resources.
Remarking on the agreement, the court said that it did not violate the top court’s decision of 2013.