I have just become privy to a variation of the well-known silly riddle, “What is Blue and Dingle Dangles”. The variation has been created by a former colleague known for his fertile wit (which sometimes tends to become bizarre) and can now be read as, “What is Orange and Dangles”. My associate goes on to say that the answer to this bit of nonsense is a ‘Carrot’ and the inspiration to mess with the original riddle came out of the government announcement saying that a huge reserve of precious metals had been discovered at Rajoa near Chiniot.

If what the Government (and by Government, I mean the Prime Minister) said is true, then such a discovery can be reckoned as nothing short of a windfall for the country and should generate public celebration. Why such a celebration did not occur is perhaps due to the hype created by the Cricket World Cup and the encounter between the traditional rivals India and Pakistan, which overshadowed all other things. An alternate reason can be that the nation has become so used to seeing carrots being dangled before them and unfulfilled promises that it ignoring the event as just another tall claim. As far as I am concerned, I will bide my time and celebrate the discovery, when I find its rewards cascading (not trickling) down to the man in the street.

At an earlier point in time, we had discovered a similar treasure containing vast quantities of copper and gold deposits at RekoDic in Chagai, Balochistan. In a near sighted move the ‘Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (CHEJVA)’was signed between the Provincial Government and an Australian mining company BHP in 1993. The agreement gave BHP a 75 per cent share in discoveries made in the next 56 years over the 3.3 million acre area, while the province (and its people) got a 25pc share on a joint-investment basis, and a mere 2pc royalty. BHP immediately struck good gold and copper deposits at one of the sites, setting into motion a chain of events that included selling of BHP stakes to a relatively unknown entity called Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) Limited and refusal of a mining license to this company, which took the case into an unsuccessful international arbitration. The controversy brought the issue to the notice of the Supreme Court, which declared the RekoDiq agreement void in 2012. The size of the discovery at RekoDiqcan be gauged by the fact that it has mineral resources of 5.9 billion tons of copper and gold out of which the economically mineable portion is around 2.2 billion tons. What the projects requires is state of the art mining and processing technology in order to secure maximum ‘economies of scale’ – a capacity that we indigenously, do not possess.

The Rajoa discovery confirmed by German consultants and the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC),consists of copper, iron and gold. Reportedly, the quality of iron deposits are similar to the ore being mined in Brazil, Russia and India. It is said that while exploration is currently being undertaken in a 28 square kilometer area, initial findings suggest that good quality mineral deposits may be present in a 2,000 square kilometer area, which includes south and southeastern parts of Chiniot City.

What however conjures the vision of an orange vegetable being dangled before the nation is the rhetoric of our leadership, which says that “all problems Pakistan faces now will be resolved within the next three years”. I sincerely hope that my skepticism turns out to be unfounded, but this will happen only if the Rajoa Project is handled transparently and honestly for it is the people of Pakistan, to whom this wealth belongs and they have a right to know how it is being exploited. This becomes more relevant because it is the people, who must reap the rewards of this wonderful gift from Allah.