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Maqbool Ahmed
Updated: 10th Nov., 2015

The land of black sand once expected a gold rush. Its residents were happy to help anyone willing to
put in money required to dig up the precious metal from under their feet. Close to quarter of a
century later, however, they are still waiting. The outsiders could use houses in
the village — not just for a night but for as long as they did not shift into their container
houses expected from Quetta over the next few days.

The gold diggers did come. A first batch that arrived in April 1992 started setting up its base camp
next to a craggy grey peak, the shape of a pyramid, rising humbly above the desert around it. The
locals call it Koh-e-Daleel — the mountain of evidence.

The terrain was inhospitable: no roads, no vegetation, no water, nowhere to stay. On a hot early
summer day, they hammered steel pegs into the rocks and tied nylon ropes to them to build tents for
themselves. They could not half finish their work when the wind arrived. No ordinary gust, it was as
hot as a flame and sharp as an arrow; its local name is gorich but the locals also call it the wind
from hell. It uprooted the pegs and snapped the ropes. Whatever tent structures had gone up, gorich
brought them crashing down. The gold diggers, among them many foreigners, rushed to safety, rubbing
and washing the sand from their eyes. Almost all of them immediately wanted to return to Quetta but
that was not possible. They needed a place where they could spend the night before they could plan
their next move.

In 1993, Siah Rek and its nearby village Humai got another name: Reko Diq gold and copper mining
project.
A wise old man, Sakhi Jamal Deen Muhammadzai, lived in a hamlet, Siah Rek, named as a tribute to the
charcoal-coloured sand surrounding it and situated not far from Koh-e-Daleel. He had, for decades,
seen the prowess of gorich, as it blew from north to south, and knew well the havoc it could wreak.
That afternoon, he knew something else: there were outsiders caught in the wind, a survey team
working for BHP Minerals, an American firm.

Muhammadzai immediately went to them. Finding them standing haplessly amid the tattered remains of
their tents, he made them a voluntary offer they never expected. The outsiders could use houses in
the village — not just for a night but for as long as they did not shift into their container
houses expected from Quetta over the next few days. The villagers would shift to gidaans — Baloch
tents made from goat and sheep skin, designed to ward off gorich.

Stranded some 50 kilometres to the southwest of the nearest town – Nok Kundi – the BHP team had no
option but to accept the offer.

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