border review | 12 April 2012

Afghan mines and railways

Quil Lawrence (NPR) reflects on the future of mining in Afghanistan. In 2007, state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) won a concession to mine copper in Aynak:

The Afghan government has relocated residents from Ainak to make way for the development of the mine. And once again there is the promise of jobs.

But five years after MCC won the contract, there is no sign of the railroad the company pledged to build to get the copper out.

“It will obviously be built before 2014, because they have to start commercial production somewhere in 2014,” says Tamim Asey, director of public affairs for the Afghan ministry of mines. He says that by 2014 the Chinese company will have built not one, but two railway lines, as guaranteed in the contract. But the fact is the Chinese contract has not been made public. A secret U.S. embassy cable published by WikiLeaks quotes Chinese officials as calling the promise to build railways “flexible.” Mining experts in Afghanistan are wondering what else in the contract might be flexible, says Haseeb Humayoon, a partner at QARA Consulting in Kabul.