Water usage at Reko Diq mine could lead to drought – Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan expressed concern that the excessive use of water at the Reko Diq mine could spearhead a wide-scale drought in the region. The Chief Justice also raised concerns over the Reko Diq miners’ wages and asked the additional attorney general, amicus curiae and the Barrick Gold counsels to conclude their arguments by Thursday, as the bench has to write the judgment by December 15, 2022. 

The apex court had a hearing on the presidential reference regarding the Reko Diq mining project in Chaghi, Balochistan. A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, inquired about the minimum wage of labourers working at the Reko Diq mine and expressed concern over the overuse of water in the project. 

At the onset of the hearing, the court raised questions about the well-being and welfare of the people working at the mining project. The court said their minimum wage should be higher than what is paid to local workers. The chief justice observed that the salary structure of workers in international petroleum companies was much better. 

The chief justice also expressed concern over the excessive use of water at the mining site, to which the opposing counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represents Barrick Gold Corporation, said the environmental projections have been taken into account. He said the water used by the company was not drinkable. 

He explained that the water used at the plant will be treated and then carefully poured into the ocean to avoid any ecological harm to marine life. The chief justice inquired whether the company could install a water treatment facility in Balochistan which would alleviate the water shortage in the areas. 

The counsel for the mining company replied that it was not possible as Gwadar and Reko Diq are almost 680 kilometers apart, and transporting the used water every day was simply not feasible. However, he assured the apex court that the treated water will be supplied to the locals as well. 

As for the minimum wage, the company’s counsel assured the court that it would be higher than what many other foreign companies are paying. He also assured the court that the working conditions would be better than those employed at other projects. 

The counsel for Barrick Gold reminded the court that if by December 15 the agreement is not signed with the Balochistan government, Pakistan would have to pay $9 billion.


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