Pakistan in talks with Tethyan Copper to resolve $5.8 billion dispute - sources

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan is in talks with Tethyan Copper to settle a $5.8 billion dispute around the Reko Diq copper project, two senior Pakistani officials told Reuters on Thursday.

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) last year ordered Pakistan to pay damages of $5.84 billion to Tethyan Copper - a joint venture between Chile’s Antofagasta and Canada’s Barrick Gold - for blocking Tethyan from developing the asset after it had already sunk more than $220 million into the project.

“We have been engaged in negotiations with parties involved in the Reko Diq dispute,” said an official who is part of the team handling negotiations, declining to provide further detail.

A second official said the parties have been in talks for an extended period since Tethyan last year expressed willingness to explore a negotiated settlement.

The sources asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorised to discuss the matter with the media.

Barrick Gold declined to comment.

Law360, a legal news service, this week reported that Tethyan had been given the go-ahead by ICSID to collect half of the arbitration award.

Having to pay out the award would wipe out nearly half of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves as the country contends with the pandemic-driven economic crisis.

Reko Diq, located in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, is one of the world’s biggest untappped copper and gold deposits. Development of the asset has been stalled for nearly a decade by the long-running dispute.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Euan Rocha and David Goodman