Canadian company Barrick Gold is set to enter into a final framework agreement with the Pakistani government to develop the Reko Diq copper-gold deposit.
Located near the borders of Iran and Afghanistan, Reko Diq is believed to be one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world.
The project is expected to be developed in phases, starting with a nearly 40 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) plant. This capacity could double within five years.
The Reko Diq project is expected to cost $7 billion. The first phase would require an investment of $4 billion for the development of the initial crushing, grinding and flotation circuit, according to Mining.com.
Earlier this year, the government of Pakistan, the provincial government of Balochistan and Barrick signed an agreement in principle to revive the project.
Barrick is the operator of the planned project with a 50% stake, while other partners include the provincial government of Balochistan (25%) and state-owned Pakistani companies (25%).
The parties are in the process of finalizing the definitive agreements underlying the framework agreement.
Barrick said in a statement: “Once this is complete and the necessary legalization steps have been taken, Barrick will update the initial feasibility study, a process that is expected to take two years. The construction of the first phase will follow that with the first production of copper and gold expected in 2027/2028.
Upon completion of the updated Feasibility Study, Barrick expects to commence copper and gold production from the first phase of the project in 2027/2028.
With an operational life of at least 40 years, the Reko Diq mine is expected to create 7,500 jobs during the construction phase and 4,000 long-term jobs once commissioned.
In 2011, the project was put on hold due to a dispute over the legality of its licensing process.
It was revived with the Pakistani government agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with Barrick and waiving $11 billion in penalties.