According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia is in discussions to purchase the Reko Diq mine in Balochistan for $8 billion. The mine, a joint venture between the Canadian company Barrick Gold and the governments of Balochistan and Pakistan, is situated in a remote part of the Chagai district.
Mark Bristow, Chief Executive of Barrick Gold, confirmed the discussions earlier this month in an interview with Reuters. He indicated that while Barrick Gold has no intentions of reducing its stake in the project, it has “no objections” if the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) chooses to buy out the Government of Pakistan’s shares. Currently, ownership of the mine is split between Barrick Gold and the Governments of Pakistan and Balochistan, each holding a 50% stake.
The PIF’s interest in the Reko Diq mine aligns with Saudi Arabia’s broader strategy of diversifying its investments and reducing its dependence on oil. In a similar move, the fund recently agreed to acquire a 10% stake in Brazilian mining company, Vale Base Metals.
However, the project has not been devoid of controversy. Baloch pro-independence organizations, including the Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) – a coalition of Baloch armed groups, have voiced concerns over foreign investments, perceiving them as exploitative. In a firm statement, BRAS spokesperson Baloch Khan warned Barrick Gold against any deals, urging the company to reconsider its involvement in the region. He further stated that BRAS would take extensive measures to defend the Baloch homeland and its resources.
The Reko Diq mine, which boasts vast reserves of gold and copper, has previously faced challenges, including a protracted legal battle. Similarly, Pakistan’s aspirations linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have been tempered due to recurring high profile attacks by Baloch armed groups. As Pakistan turns its gaze to additional foreign investments for its economic growth through projects in Balochistan, the future of Reko Diq remains under increased scrutiny, especially amidst strong opposition from Baloch armed groups.