Mess Aynak Mine and Its Impact on the National Economy
By: Fazal Wali Shirani
Translator: Sajad Ahmad Khitab
As generally acknowledged, a stable and robust economy strengthens a country from all angles. There aren't many places in the world that can boast of having wonderful weather, abundant water, forests, vast deserts, and as many natural riches underground as Afghanistan. Natural resources in Afghanistan are so abundant that they have the potential to make this impoverished nation wealthy. However, over the past 40 years, political instability, insecurity, a lack of clear laws and policies governing mining, corruption, poor project management, the nonexistence of independent governments, a lack of fundamental infrastructure, and a reliance on foreign aid rather than self-sufficiency have all hampered the development of the mining industry in the country. But now that the overall security in the country has been ensured and there is no fear of corruption with the projects being managed properly; attention has been paid to legal and professional mining. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks to exploit the underground natural resources of Afghanistan technically and professionally bolstering and reviving the country's economy. Copper mines are one of the subsurface natural resources. Among these mines, the largest mine in Afghanistan is Aynak Copper Mine, which has been contracted for extraction purposes with a Chinese company (MCC). If the extraction starts, the revenue will undoubtedly increase resulting in a stronger economy. Considering these factors, the Islamic Emirate began making realistic attempts to begin the operations of the aforementioned mine; nevertheless, mining operations have not yet begun due to the artifacts in the area. In this regard, the Islamic Emirate's Ministry of Information and Culture is working assiduously to relocate the historic relics to a secure location.
The Site, Artifacts and Level of Copper in Mess Aynak
The Mess Aynak mine is situated in the Mohammad Agha district of Logar province, 30 kilometers southwest of Kabul, in the Aynak area. In addition to copper, this region preserved thousands of priceless antique artifacts, the combined value of which exceeds millions of dollars. Also, these artifacts are priceless because they shed light on the ancient Afghan society and the level of artistic skill possessed by its inhabitants. More than 20 stupas built by Buddhist monks in the fifth and sixth centuries are also found in Mess Aynak. Additionally, some evidence suggests that this mine was exploited before the Islamic era, too. French archaeologists working under the direction of Fosman conducted research in 1363 AD and revealed the facts about the existence of valuable artifacts in the area. There are also indications that Afghans themselves conducted research in this region before the work of the French archaeologists. Hence, it has been discovered that there are thousands of ancient artifacts in this area; regrettably, many illegal excavations have been carried out in the Aynak area during the foreign invasions and the American occupation of Afghanistan, leading to the plundering of some of the antiques. Wall paintings, Buddha sculptures, coins from many kings, and ancient religious and residential sites can all be found here. Clay pots, wooden sculptures, gold or bronze jewelry, gold-embroidered clothing, and other priceless artifacts are among the antiquities discovered in the area. These artifacts help to shed light on the economic and religious practices of the time. In addition to ancient monuments, Mess Aynak Mine is the first-largest copper mine in the country and the second-largest in the world. Mess Aynak in Logar province has extended to three parts: central, western, and southern regions. According to the preliminary survey, there are 11.3 million metric tons of copper in this mine; however, it is estimated that the total copper reserves in this area are 17 million metric tons. In addition to copper, this mine contains 7700 metric tons of silver (Ag), 600 thousand metric tons of cobalt (co), and a limited amount of gold.
Economic Impacts of Miss Aynak Mine
The extraction of mines, which are economically valuable natural resources, raises income levels. When revenues rise, the economy expands and the nation's economic issues are resolved. Regrettably, we have not taken note of how these hidden resources are making Afghanistan a wealthy nation. Foreign invasions, corrupt governments, administrative corruption, security issues, and other factors may all be contributing factors, but lack of commitment and steadfast determination are the most crucial ones. The past administrations could have at least partially resolved the aforementioned issues and utilized the available resources to stabilize the country's economy if they had been committed and determined. Despite the country's economic issues and several other challenges, including the United States' freezing of Afghans' assets and the imposition of several sanctions, there is a strong commitment to the development of the nation following the end of American occupation and the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate going for the economy-oriented policy with fewer resources has been able to take the underground wealth of the nation out and use it for development purposes. So far, 186 mines have been contracted and are currently being mined collecting billions of Afghanis for the government treasury. Some other mines have been contracted, but the practical work has not started yet. After the complete transfer of the antiquities in the area, the practical work will begin. This mine's overall economic worth is in the billions of dollars. According to the agreement with this company, 800 million dollars will be given to Afghanistan as a guarantee and about tens of million dollars will be given as taxes. Afghanistan's coal will be used in the copper processing of Mess Aynak Mine, and in return, a 400-megawatt power plant will be built by the contractor for public use. According to the agreement, the construction of hundreds of kilometers of the railway is also under the responsibility of the said Chinese company. With the start of the practical work of the Mess Aynak mine project, in addition to the aforementioned economic benefits, thousands of people will be directly and indirectly employed, which will too have an impact on economic growth.
Obstacles and Solutions to the Start of Mess Aynak Mine Extraction
As the Mess Aynak Mine has much economic value for Afghanistan, the start of its extraction is also important. However, some obstacles have prevented the start of the practical work, such as the presence of ancient artifacts in this area. In this regard, the Ministry of Information and Culture has been entrusted with the task of safely transporting these artifacts by the Economic Commission. The said ministry has started the transfer of the artifacts and is trying to transfer them before the stipulated date to make the area free for the start of the extraction process. Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, leading a high-ranking delegation, visited the Mess Aynak area. Besides visiting the various parts of the mine, they met with the officials of the MCC company. He strongly requested they start the mining operations as soon as possible. The officials of the contractor company assured that they will start the operations after the transfer of the antiquities.
Afghanistan has beautiful weather, plenty of water, forests, vast deserts, and underground natural resources. The amount of natural resources in Afghanistan is reaching the level that can turn this underdeveloped country into a rich one and add it to the list of developed countries of the world. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks to utilize Afghanistan's natural resources legally, technically, and professionally to bolster and revive the country's economy. tens of mines have been contributing millions of Afghanis to the national treasury on a regular basis. In addition, several others have contracts but the extraction has not yet begun, for example, the Mess Aynak Mine. The contract for this mine has been made with a Chinese company, MCC. After the complete transfer of the antiquities, the mining operations will begin. As a result, thousands of people will be employed, and the national income increase.