‘Aynak mine project offers opportunities but challenges persist’
KABUL (PAN): Presenting its much-awaited report on the vital Aynak mine project on Tuesday, the Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) report discusses the opportunities‐challenges in the prevailing conditions the country and its people will face as a result of the Aynak mining project.
The report said the challenges that would arise as a result of beginning to invest in these unexploited resources as Afghanistan suffered from a paucity of skilled labor for the mining sector.
It warned that employment opportunities that come along with investment in the sector may turn into challenges if the government does not develop and implement a training program to build the technical skills required for its success.
Shuja Zada, an expert on mines’ affairs, said both the government and the Chinese company failed to move forward on the vital Aynak mine project. He said the government failed to maintain security and law and order in the area while the Chinese company had their fresh demands.
“These sorts of problems have halted exploration activities at Aynak project,” he deplored. In addition, the research found that community perception has turned negative for the Aynak project as land compensation was being a major cause in the shift in perception.
After repeated attempts by Pajhwok Afghan News, the spokesman of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum did not explain his ministry position on the vital Aynak project’s issues and problems.
Local people’s expectations in the absence of an information sharing mechanism have shot out of control and their exorbitant claim over land without corresponding documentation has led to a breach of trust between them and government.
The IWA was created in October by Lorenzo Delesgues and Yama 2005 and established itself as an independent civil society organization in 2006. The IWA aimed at to evolve understanding, analyzing and taking action on transparency, accountability and anti‐corruption issues.
It may be recalled that the war-torn Afghanistan inked its maiden but big mining contract for copper mine exploitation at Aynak with a Chinese joint venture, China Metallurgical Group Corporation and Jiangxi Copper called MCC‐JCL‐JCL Aynak Minerals on May 25, 2008.
Aynak is blessed with two treasures: copper and historical heritage of unprecedented riches. The site has numerous Buddha statues, stupas, coins and other items.
However, there has been pressure by MCC‐JCL to have the government remove the archeological findings at Aynak as soon as possible and this has strained the archaeologists working on the site.
Furthermore, the report said that legal mechanisms for land acquisitions are nonexistent which has complicated relations among the state, the company and the communities living there.
Ajmal Sahak, mines and petroleum head of Logar province, said that allegations leveled against his ministry that locals’ land came under the Aynak project, were baseless.
“The Aynak project has an 18-members committee conducting meetings frequently to discuss problems of the locals and protect their rights,” he added.
The report delves into the environment to see the impact of production on local communities. The company completed its environment and social impact study very late. It seems incomplete because the researchers did not have access to all villages in proximity to Aynak that would be affected by mining.
There are serious apprehensions about the environmental impact of copper extraction and processing in the region. The project may severely affect the water supply in the region as well as downstream populations, the report said.
Local communities in some villages have already complained about the negative effects on the water. The disposal of mining wastes and the location of the tailing dam (mine dump) are major concerns for environmentalists and civil society activists.
The location of the tailing dam as a source of pollution is a subject for discussion along with how to handle the gases produced during the smelting and refining process.
Finally, opportunities and challenges are viewed through the prism of governance and the report examines whether Afghanistan has the kind of legal framework along with the institutions, reporting culture and overall environment conducive for the balanced growth of economy and investors.
The findings also show that the company lacks awareness of the social realities in its operating environment. Local people have lost land due to the project and they have not been compensated.
The report said that insecurity in the region has increased and many local youth are jobless.
Archaeological findings on the mining site have complicated the project’s further implementation. If these issues are not properly addressed in time, there is a risk of increased conflict associated with the Aynak project, the report concluded.
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