Saindak project sees tribe demanding land rent
By Khalid Mustafa
ISLAMABAD: After the Bugti-government dispute on the royalty issue, a new controversy on the Saindak project has emerged between Balochistan’s Syed tribe and government.
The Syeds have demanded the government immediately pay them an annual land rent as royalty, alleging that the Saindak Metal Limited (SML) was not paying them the rent of their land that was acquired for the Saindak copper gold project 26 year ago.
According to an official source at the Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, the Syeds from Chaghi district claimed that they were the owners of the land and asked the government for the land rent immediately.
Sources said the federal government received a letter in which the tribe had claimed that the Saindak area, which was being used by the Chinese company Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC) for exploring copper, belonged to them and they had been living there for the last 400 years. They further claimed that the project was started in the 1970s, but the SML had paid them any rent up till now.
However, sources said there was no reality in the Syeds claim and they had ben inspired by the Bugtis and other Baloch tribes who were getting million of rupees annually from the government as water charges, land rent, electricity charges beside getting other benefits from government-owned and private oil and gas companies.
The government wanted to resolve the issue amicably and therefore the Petroleum Ministry had investigated into the matter and concluded that the Syeds had no property rights in Saindak area and they had been making such baseless claims for the last 20 years, the source added. The real owner of the Saindak area was the Sanjrani tribe, source further said.
The Saindak project was located in Balochistan’s Chaghi district and the reserve would give an average production of 15,810 tonnes of copper, 1.47 tonnes of gold and 2.76 tonnes of silver for 19 years and generate an annual revenue of about $ 65 million. It would create 1,288 direct and 11,000 indirect jobs.
The project started trial production in November 1995, which continued till January 1996 and it produced 1,545 tonnes of blister copper and 10,000 tonnes of semi-finished products in 45 days, which were sold in the international market for Rs 280 million.
However, work could not be carried on after January 1996 due to a lack of funds. But then in the early 1996, the Saindak project got completed at a cost of Rs 13.5 billion by the MCC and the SML was shut down for wanting working capital amounting to Rs 1.5 billion.
Now, the project was on lease with the MCC. Under the agreement, the MCC would use Saindak on lease for 10 years with a 50 percent share of the Pakistan government and the company would provide employment to 1,000 Pakistanis, sources added.