Canada-based Barrick Gold is nearing a final framework agreement with The Pakistani Government to develop the Reko Diq copper-gold deposit.

Located close to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan, Reko Diq is said to be one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world.

The project is planned to be developed in phases, starting with a nearly 40 million tonne per annum (Mtpa) plant. This capacity could double within five years.

The Reko Diq project is expected to cost $7bn. The first phase would require a $4bn investment for the development of the initial crush, milling and flotation circuit, according to Mining.com.

Earlier this year, the Pakistani Government, the provincial government of Balochistan, and Barrick signed an agreement in principle to restart the project.

Barrick is the planned project operator with a 50% stake while other partners include the Balochistan provincial government (25%) and Pakistani state-owned enterprises (25%).

The parties are finalising definitive agreements underlying the framework agreement.

Barrick said in a statement: “Once this has been completed and the necessary legalisation steps have been taken, Barrick will update the original feasibility study, a process expected to take two years. Construction of the first phase will follow that with the first production of copper and gold expected in 2027/2028.”

Upon completion of the updated feasibility study, Barrick plans to start copper and gold production from the first phase of the project in 2027/2028.

With an operational life of at least 40 years, the Reko Diq mine is expected to create 7,500 jobs during the construction phase and 4,000 long-term jobs once commissioned.

In 2011, the project was put on hold owing to a row over the legality of its licensing process.

It was revived with the Pakistani Government agreeing on an out-of-court agreement with Barrick and waiving $11bn worth of penalties.