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Pakistan's top court endorses Barrick Gold's $10 billion mining investment

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building at the evening hours, in Islamabad

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan's Supreme Court endorsed on Friday a settlement for Barrick Gold to resume mining at the Reko Diq project, one of the world's largest underdeveloped sites of copper and gold deposits, it said in an order.

The endorsement was a condition of the settlement for Barrick to resume work on the project in the southwestern province of Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, in which it will invest $10 billion.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the head of a five-judge panel, read out the operative part of the brief order in court.

"The agreements ... have not been found by us to be unconstitutional or illegal on the parameters and grounds spelt out," read the order seen by Reuters.

President Arif Alvi had asked the court to review the deal.

In an out of court agreement this year, Barrick Gold ended a long-running dispute with Pakistan, and agreed to restart development.

Under the deal, the company withdrew its case in an international arbitration court, which had slapped a penalty of $11 billion on Pakistan for suspending the contracts of the company and its partners in 2011.

The company's licence to mine the untapped deposits was cancelled after the Supreme Court ruled illegal the award granted to it and its partner, Chile's Antofagasta.

Antofagasta had agreed to exit the project, saying its growth strategy was focused on production of copper and by-products in the Americas.

Pakistan's mineral-rich province of Balochistan is home to both Islamist militants and separatist Baloch insurgents, who have engaged in insurgency against the government for decades, demanding a greater share of the region's resources.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Clarence Fernandez)