Insecurity hurdle to investment: mines minister
KABUL (Pajhwok): Rejecting corruption in contracts, Mines Minister Mohammad Akbar Barakzai on Sunday said insecurity had blocked investments by foreign firms to develop the sector.
He was testifying before the Meshrano Jirga after being summoned to brief lawmakers about the situation of mining activities in the country.
The senators said powerful and unprofessional individuals continued to illegally extract minerals. They alleged corruption in awarding contracts and said mining activities at the Mes Ainak copper mine had been stopped.
In response, the mines minister said a number of foreign companies were eager to invest in the Afghanistan’s mines, but insecurity was keeping them away.
Barakzai urged the parliament to assist security organs in protecting mines in order to pave the ground for foreign investment.
About illegal extractions, he said police chiefs and governors in all provinces had been contacted to stop the illegal practice.
“If someone illegally extracts minerals, he cannot sell them in the market. All such attempts have been blocked,” he said.
He said names of powerful individuals involved in illegal digging of mines in Samangan province had been given to the Attorney’s Office and police.
“We have identified all those involved in illegal extractions. Now it is up to the judiciary,” the minister said, rejected claims of corruption in contracts, which he said were concluded by a special commission.
The commission is comprised of ministers of mines, rural development, finance, foreign affairs, economy, commerce, information and culture, agriculture, interior and power and energy.
Other members of the panel are national security advisor, heads of the Norm and Standard Organisation and the Environment Protection Department.
Barakzai confirmed extraction works at the Mes Ainak copper mine had been halted due to the discovery of historic objects.
He said about 200 workers, including foreign experts, were busy extracting the historic artifacts at the Mes Ainak mine.
He said some statues found at the site weighed several tonnes, which needed time and advanced machinery to be pulled out. In this regard, the minister said talks had been held with the World Bank.
He said many ancient pieces had been retrieved and showcased at a temporary museum set up in the Mes Ainak area.
Barakzai said the Mes Ainak was the world’s largest copper mine and so far no copper had been extracted from it. He said the copper deposits had been estimated at 250 tonnes worth $43 billion.
A contract to develop the mine was signed two years ago with the China’s MCC enterprise. Under the contract, the Chinese firm will invest $5 billion in the mine, with Afghanistan expecting $300 million in annual income.
Barakzai also said the government earned 350 million afghanis in revenue from stones, sand and soil used in construction of buildings.
Senate Chairman Fazl Hadi Muslimyar said explanations offered by Barakzai were convincing.
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