Province of Balochistan v Tethyan Copper Company  EWHC 938 (Comm) concerns mostly a challenge to an arbitration tribunal ruling for reasons beyond the interest of the blog. In the underlying ICC arbitration (which has not yet concluded but has been stayed pending the present claim), the Defendant to the present claim (“TCC”), an Australian mining company, brings claims against Balochistan, a province of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, arising out of a mining joint venture. More specifically, the claims arise out of a contract known as the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement dated 29 July 1993 and governed by the law of Pakistan.
POB seek to contend that the ICC tribunal lacked jurisdiction because the contract containing the arbitration agreement was void for a number of reasons, one of which is that it was allegedly procured by corruption. POB also alleges serious procedural irregularity in a number of respects.
However the challenge is not just an ordinary challenge to an arbitration award. At 67 Henshaw J signals interesting private international law /arbitration /multilevel governance cum regulation issues. Claimants suggest ia that the arbitration
gives rise to a number of complex issues, such as questions of private international law raised in section III of the arbitration claim form about whether applying the English law concept of issue estoppel in the ICC arbitration to certain issues determined in the ICSID arbitration (which is governed by a hybrid of laws including international investment law, US law and public international law) is consistent with the parties’ agreement to apply the law of Pakistan to the substance of their dispute in respect of the CHEJVA. POB suggests that an exchange of pleadings to identify the precise issues in dispute is likely to be of real benefit to the parties and the court: otherwise there is a risk that, if the case proceeds on the basis of the three or so relevant pages of the arbitration claim form and the three or so relevant pages of the responsive witness statement of Ms Reid, the parties will fully understand the detail of each other’s cases only when they exchange skeleton arguments just before the final hearing.
(A solution suggested is ia to hold bifurcation of the issues considered in the challenge to the award). Henshaw J held that the issues are too complex to be held at the current stage and orders there should be a hearing on the substantive issues.
That promises to be an interesting hearing.