Afghan Government Awards Gold And Oil Extraction Deals

The Afghan government awarded multi-million dollar contracts on gold and oil deposits in northern Afghanistan in a move that is hoped to lead the country towards financial independence. The Ministry of Mines said an Inter-Ministerial Committee approved Monday a multi-million-dollar contract for the exploration of gold under the mountains in Dushi district in Baghlan province. The contract was awarded to Afghan Krystal Natural Resources, a multi-national investment company. It is only one of two gold mines in Afghanistan and the first backed by private investors. The committee has also awarded the country’s first private oil contract to an Afghan company, the statement said. It is estimated that the Angot field in Jowzjan province could produce 800 barrels a day. Mining Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said the contract would serve to remind that Afghanistan has now ‘become more adept at the efficient and transparent management of our resources as well as our role within the extractive industry.’ The West has been pushing the government to generate more income from its natural resources for the time when the foreign forces fighting the Taliban insurgents leave. NATO plans to transfer the overall security responsibility to local forces by the end of 2014. Paul Brinkley, the US deputy under-secretary of defense hailed the deal as a ‘turning point’ for the country’s economic sovereignty. It was evidence that Western investors were showing confidence in Afghanistan’s future, stability, prosperity and independence, Brinkley said, adding that the agreement also meant that ‘Afghanistan is now an oil-producing nation, creating jobs for Afghans and revenue for investors and the government.’ Afghanistan remains one of the poorest nations in the world despite billions of dollars in aid poured into the country since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001. In June, the government said initial discoveries of untapped mineral deposits were ‘worth up to 3 trillion dollars.’ The deposits discovered include veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium, a key material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and mobile phones. However, infrastructure and security still remain an issue. Some of the minerals are located in areas controlled by Taliban, which could make the mines less attractive to foreign investors. The minerals could also stoke the insurgency rather than bring peace, as the Taliban could fight harder to regain control of the country and its newfound wealth. Analysts have said that due to Afghanistan’s poor infrastructure, it would take years to develop its mining industry, and the newfound wealth could be lost to graft in one of the world’s most corrupt states. ((14 DEC 2010))
















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