ISLAMABAD: Barrick Gold Corporation Chief Executive Mark Bristow said that the company had set 2028 as the target for starting the first production from the giant copper-gold mine Reko Diq in Balochistan. It was also planning to complete the Reko Diq feasibility study update by the end of 2024, said Mark Bristow in a news release on Monday. The chief executive’s statement came in the backdrop of the completion of the legal processes and definitive transaction agreements last month. According to the press release, Reko Diq will be operated by Barrick, which owns 50% of the project, with Balochistan holding 25% and three Pakistani state-owned enterprises sharing the remaining 25%. The shareholding structure is in line with Barrick’s policy of benefit-sharing partnerships with its host countries. As part of a three-day project review that started in Quetta, Bristow, accompanied by senior Barrick executives, met with Balochistan chief minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and other provincial leaders to brief them on the extensive social and economic development opportunities that would be generated by the mine, which is expected to have a life of at least 40 years. The meeting was attended by a wide spectrum of provincial stakeholders and leaders, including opposition leader Malik Sikandar Khan (JUI-F) and leaders of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Jamiat Ullema Islam (JUI-F), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Awami National Party (ANP). After the meeting, Bristow and the chief minister signed a memorandum of agreement which specifies the timetable for the disbursement of committed funds to the province, including advance royalties and social development funds, ensuring that the people of Balochistan start earning benefits from the project well before the mine goes into production. The agreement provides for an initial payment of $3 million this month. Barrick is working to set up community development committees to identify priority projects focused on food security, environmental management, and access to education, healthcare, and potable water. In Islamabad, Bristow met with Minister of State (Petroleum Division) Musadik Malik and reaffirmed Barrick’s goal to be a partner to Pakistan for decades to come and to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country’s highly prospective mining sector.