ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military is taking a key role in the development of one of the world’s biggest untapped copper and gold deposits, which is currently stalled by a multi-billion-dollar legal wrangle with foreign mining firms, multiple sources familiar with the situation said.
The Reko Diq mine has become a test case for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ability to attract serious foreign investment to Pakistan as it struggles to stave off an economic crisis that has forced it to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout.
Ten current and former provincial and federal government officials and mining sources familiar with the project in the Balochistan region say the military has become the most important voice on the future of Reko Diq , which it sees as a strategic national asset.
The military will not only be in a position to decide which investors develop the deposit, but an army-controlled engineering firm, Frontier Works Organization (FWO), is positioning itself to be a member of any consortium involved, these people said.
In a statement in response to questions about its role in Reko Diq , the military spokesman’s office said, “(The military) may only participate in government’s plan of development of Reko Diq , as per national requirements.”
But it acknowledged that FWO, best known for building roads through Pakistan’s rugged and lawless border regions, has developed “substantial” mining capability in recent years and would be interested in taking a role in the project.
“If an opportunity arises of participating in developing Reko Diq , FWO may work at par with other competitors (or) companies provided the project is financially viable (or) suitable,” the statement said.