Islamabad — Pakistan says it has welcomed a statement by Tethyan Copper expressing willingness for a negotiated settlement after a World Bank tribunal ordered the government to pay $5.8bn in damages in a dispute over the Reko Diq copper mine.

The statement from the attorney-general's office came after a World Bank arbitration court ruled in favour of Tethyan Copper, a joint venture between Chile's Antofagasta and Canada's Barrick Gold, in a dispute over a lease to the mine, located in a remote area of southwestern Pakistan.

The government, which earlier in July signed a $6bn bailout agreement with the IMF, said it had taken note of a statement from Tethyan Copper's chairman expressing willingness to seek a negotiated settlement.

“The government of Pakistan welcomes this approach to work towards a mutually beneficial solution that works for both sides,” it said.

However, it said that together with the provincial government of Balochistan, it was still studying the decision by the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The centre ruled against Pakistan in 2017 but had not determined damages owed to Tethyan until now.

Tethyan Copper discovered vast mineral wealth more than a decade ago in Reko Diq, at the foot of an extinct volcano near Pakistan's frontier with Iran and Afghanistan. The deposit was set to rank among the world's biggest untapped copper and gold mines.

The company said it had invested more than $220m by the time Pakistan's government, in 2011, unexpectedly refused to grant a mining lease needed to keep operating.

The attorney-general’s office said Pakistan reserved the right to pursue any legal remedies but sought to assure foreign investors that their rights would be protected.

“Pakistan is a responsible state and the government of Pakistan takes its international legal obligations most seriously,” the statement said. “Pakistan welcomes all foreign investors and assures them that their lawful rights, interests and assets shall always be protected by Pakistan,” it said.