Renowned Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has expressed interest in acquiring a stake in Barrick Gold Corp.’s $7 billion Reko Diq copper-gold project, signaling his intent to expand business interests in Pakistan, as reported by Bloomberg.
In an interview in Islamabad, Sawiris confirmed his interest in investing, citing his advantage over other investors due to his extensive knowledge of the country and longstanding friendships. “We want to be on the Pakistani side because I have been here for 25 years,” he stated. However, he acknowledged the limited options, citing a scarcity of geological data and the prominence of the Reko Diq project as a primary opportunity.
Sawiris, a major investor in gold miners through La Mancha Resources, expressed optimism despite challenges such as Pakistan’s inflexible official procedures, unstable currency, and capital restrictions. “If there is concrete in my way, I’ll drill through it and I’ll go,” he affirmed, emphasizing his determination to overcome obstacles in pursuit of his goals.
Outlook Middle East’s World’s Richest Arabs 2023 list ranks Sawiris fifth, estimating his net worth at $3.3 billion as of October 16, 2023. Sawiris amassed his fortune in the telecom industry, notably selling Orascom Telecom to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction in 2011.
The Reko Diq project, jointly owned by Barrick and Pakistan, has the capacity to produce 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold annually for over 50 years, according to Bloomberg. Situated in the Balochistan region bordering Afghanistan and Iran, the project garnered attention from multinational mining firms in September, with Barrick CEO Mark Bristow noting increased interest despite the challenges associated with investing in complex regions. Saudi Arabia has also shown interest, potentially contributing to the project’s stability.
Pakistan’s state-owned energy exploration companies, holding a stake in the Reko Diq project, indicated last month their consideration of “potential engagement” with sovereign foreign investors, withholding further details. Sawiris’s potential involvement adds a new dimension to the evolving landscape of foreign investment in Pakistan’s promising mining sector.