* Reko Diq controlled by Barrick, Antofagasta partnership
* JV denied mining license by Baluchistan province in 2011
* Case under international arbitration
TORONTO, Jan 7 Pakistan's top court has ruled
against Canada's Barrick Gold Corp and Chile's
Antofagasta Plc in a long-running dispute with a
provincial government over their right to develop a $3.3 billion
The companies were told on Monday that Pakistan's Supreme
Court had ruled an agreement by their Tethyan Copper Co joint
venture to develop the Reko Diq mine in southwestern Pakistan is
invalid, Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd said.
The province of Baluchistan originally signed a deal in 1993
to develop Reko Diq with Australia's BHP, now BHP Billiton Ltd
. Antofagasta and Barrick spent $200 million to take
over the project in 2006. But the Baluchistan government has
refused to convert the exploration permit into a mining license.
It was unclear what impact the ruling would have on an
international arbitration process now underway to resolve the
Development of Reko Diq has been on hold since 2011, when
the Baluchistan government rejected Tethyan's application for a
mining license. The deposit, near the country's borders with
Afghanistan and Iran, was expected to produce about 200,000
tonnes of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold annually.
Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest and poorest province, holds
a 25 percent stake in the project, with Tethyan holding the
remaining 75 percent.
The development has faced speed bumps since 2010 when the
province said it would cancel the project in response to growing
anger in Baluchistan over outsiders exploiting natural
For decades separatists in Baluchistan have fought a
low-level insurgency for control of provincial gas and mineral
resources, which they say are unfairly exploited by the
country's richer and more powerful provinces.
If developed, the Reko Diq mine would mark the largest
foreign direct investment into Pakistan's mining sector and a
major investment in Baluchistan.