ISLAMABAD, November 14 2023 : Saudi Arabia has shown interest in acquiring government stakes in Pakistan's Reko Diq gold and copper mine, an official of the South Asian nation said on Tuesday, adding that an international adviser was close to completing a valuation.
Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) owns a 50% stake in the mine, with the remaining 50% owned by the governments of Pakistan and the province of Balochistan. Barrick considers the mine one of the world's largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.
The government expects that the valuation to be completed before Dec. 25, Jahanzeb Khan, the prime minister's adviser on the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), told journalists.
He did not identify the adviser.
Pakistan has previously said Barrick would invest $10 billion in the project. Barrick in August said it was open to bringing in Saudi Arabia as one of its partners in the mine.
Khan said that Islamabad will enter talks with Riyadh after the valuation is completed, and determine what its expectations are. The Saudi Arabian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pakistan is currently in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis, and narrowly averted sovereign default earlier this year after a last-gasp $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But the deal rests on the country's ability to bring in foreign direct investment to shore up its critically low foreign exchange reserves. Pakistan is banking on old allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, to lead the investment.
Khan said that Pakistan was keen on having Saudi Arabia on board, but said
Islamabad was "not in a rush" and did not want to have "distress sales" for any of its assets and would protect its national interests.