January 16, 2012

Balochistan govt hires int’l lawyers to contest Reko Diq case

* Team of five legal experts includes wife of former British PM Tony Blair

By Hasnaat malik

ISLAMABAD: The Balochistan government has engaged the services of reputed international lawyers to defend its point of view in the international arbitration in connection with the Reko Diq case.

The move comes after the International Chamber of Commerce served notices on the provincial government for refusing a mining licence of Reko Diq project to Tethyan Copper Company (TCC).

Moreover, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has also issued a notice to the federal government by invoking Pak-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Sources told Daily Times that the provincial government had hired a five-member legal team to contest the case in the international arbitration.

The lawyers are: Aruthor Marriott QC, Cherry Blair QC, Ahmar Bilal Sufi, Barrister Mehnaz Malik and Balochistan Advocate General Amanullah Kunrani. Aurthor Marriott QC is a renowned lawyer from England, and his area of expertises is mining disputes.

Cherry Blair QC, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, is also a renowned lawyer.

Mehnaz Malik is the expert of international investment issues. Ahmer Bilal Sufi is also a senior international legal expert of the country.

The sources said that the Balochistan chief minister has approved the legal team, which has started arranging videoconferences for the preparation of replies in the international arbitration. They said the federal government still has not engaged any specific team regarding the matter but both the provincial and federal governments were coordinating with each other to engage the same team in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Meanwhile, a member of the legal team has also confirmed that the provincial government has hired five legal experts, who were drafting their replies about the issue.

Talking about the hearing of the case, the expert said that the replies would be exchanged among the parties.

The TCC, previously owned by BHP Billiton of Australia, and the Balochistan government are partners under the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (CHEJVA). The agreement was originally signed between the BHP and the provincial government in 1993.

Earlier, Tethyan Copper Company in November 2011, filed a case against Pakistan in an international court of arbitration to protect its legal rights in line with the CHEJVA Agreement and Balochistan Mineral Rules 2002. The Reko Diq project, located in Chaghi district of Balochistan, was developed by Tethyan Copper Company, jointly owned by Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada, and Antofagasta, Chile.

In May last year, the Supreme Court withdrew the stay order in Reko Diq case and advised the Balochistan government to decide about the leasing out of copper and gold mining project to the TCC on merit.

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