I follow a news website/magazine called The Diplomat, which discusses diverse issues around the world. One of the article the website publish was about mining project in Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Many of you might have heard about Afghanistan in the past decade, the war and other negative topics in regards to the country, but this country has a whole other side. The region has has been center for many invasions including some of the recent wars by Soviet Union in the 1980s and United States and its allies (including Canada) since 2001.
Afghanistan is known for its historical Silk Road, which provides a rich history to the landscape. The region has many unique artifacts dating back to 2600 years ago. The following are quotes from the article which I consider to be important:
“As The New York Times noted, while Europe was crawling through the Dark Ages, Afghanistan was home to Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, finally, Muslims, in a tolerant, prosperous society.
According to The Guardian, the 2,600-year-old site contains fortified monasteries, a Zoroastrian fire temple, several Buddhist stupas, more than 1,000 statutes and walls featuring frescoes of donor portraits and scenes from the Buddha’s life. Not to mention smelting workshops, miners’ quarters (even then the site’s copper was well known), a mint, two small forts, a citadel, and a stockpile of Kushan, Sassanian and Indo-Parthian coins.”
“At present, excavation of the site is only 10 percent complete and the bulk of the more significant findings would traditionally come to light in the remaining 90 percent of work. But here’s the problem: the remaining 90 percent of excavation would take an estimated 25 to 30 years to complete, while the mine project is slated to begin shortly. While the group initially planned to begin the project this month, Huffman reports that Mes Aynak has received a stay of execution.”
“In 2007, the Chinese state-backed China Metallurgical Group paid $3 billion to the Afghan government – its largest contract ever – for mining rights to Mes Aynak (“little copper well”), which contains an estimated $100 billion worth of copper. To reach the coveted natural resource, the firm plans to dig a 500-meter-deep crater that would effectively wipe the archaeological treasure off the map.”
” ‘We will use it to build infrastructure – agriculture, electricity – and strengthen the Afghan security forces,’ Abdul Aziz Harib, a Ministry of Mines official who is responsible for Mes Aynak, told The Diplomat. ‘In short, this project will help Afghanistan to stand on its own feet and make us self-sufficient.’ According to Harib, some 7,000 Afghans will be directly employed by the mine, while 35,000 will work for the project indirectly.”
I, personally, lean more towards the economic aspect of development. So when I come across such stories, I always think about financial costs and benefits of such projects. At one side, we have finance flowing to the government (corrupt government, to be more precise) and creating 7,000 jobs directly and 35,000 jobs indirectly, which are both short-term. While on the other side of the scale, we have potential for a huge tourist destination and conservation of historical site (hopefully under UNESCO).
Which option would be better for the country and the people?