Home » Egyptian Tycoon Eyes Pakistan’s $7 Billion Gold Mine

Egyptian Tycoon Eyes Pakistan’s $7 Billion Gold Mine

by Victor Adetimilehin

Pakistan’s Reko Diq mine, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, has attracted the interest of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who is looking to expand his business in the country.

Sawiris, who has made a fortune in telecom and gold, said he was interested in investing in the $7 billion project, which is jointly owned by Barrick Gold and Pakistan. The mine, located in the Balochistan region that borders Afghanistan and Iran, can produce 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold a year for more than half a century. “I have an advantage compared to other investors. I know the country, I have friends here,” Sawiris said in an interview in Islamabad. “We want to be on the Pakistani side, because I have been here for 25 years.”

Sawiris is not the only one eyeing the Reko Diq mine, which has been mired in legal disputes for years. Last month, Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said he was seeing newfound “interest” in the project from multinational mining firms that have been hesitant to venture into tricky regions of the world. The mine has also drawn attention from Saudi Arabia, whose presence could help stabilize the project in a contentious part of the world. Pakistan’s state-owned energy exploration companies, which have a stake in the project, said last month they were looking into “potential engagement” with sovereign foreign investors, without giving details.

Sawiris’ Ora Developers is separately working on a luxury housing project, Eighteen, and he earlier set up one of Pakistan’s first mobile phone companies, Mobilink, now owned by Veon. Mobilink is the nation’s largest cellular firm by subscriber numbers.

Pakistan’s lengthy, difficult official procedures, an unstable currency and capital restrictions are hurdles for investment, but Sawiris said he remained optimistic. “If there is concrete in my way, I’ll drill through it and I’ll go,” he said. “I have never let anybody in my life hold me back from what I wanted to achieve.”

The Reko Diq mine could be a game-changer for Pakistan’s economy, which has been struggling with high inflation, low growth and a heavy debt burden. The project could also create thousands of jobs and boost the development of the Balochistan region, which has been plagued by violence and poverty.


Source: Mining Weekly

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