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Friday, November 11, 2011

Afghanistan moves quickly to sell mineral rights

By Agence France Presse

KABUL – While an end to the fighting in Afghanistan seems some time off, competition is already under way for control of the country's mineral riches, valued at more than US $1 trillion (48 trillion AFA), Agence France Presse (AFP) reported November 10.

According to Ministry of Mines documents seen by AFP, Afghanistan is planning to sell extraction rights for up to five mines every year until the last international coalition troops depart in 2014.

With the war's Western backers pushing economic solutions to end the decade-long conflict, the tussle for future influence in Afghanistan is becoming a regional contest, experts say.

China, flush with foreign exchange reserves and undeterred by the hazards of frontier capitalism, bought the first tendered oil and copper concessions, leading the list of Afghanistan's neighbours bidding for the mines so far.

The huge Aynak mine south of Kabul, to which China won extraction rights in 2007, could yield over11m tonnes of copper, according to Soviet-era data.

A decision on awarding the biggest consignment yet – the two-billion-tonne Hajigak iron ore mine in central Bamiyan Province – is due in the coming days.

"Everyone's rushing," said Deputy Minister of Mines Nasir Durrani, estimating the Hajigak deal could be worth up to $6 billion (287 trillion AFA) to the government.

Future deals on offer include several oil blocks, more copper and iron mines, and deposits of gold and lapis luzuli.

The combined payout from the Aynak and Hajigak mines could earn the hard-up Afghan treasury US $500m (24 trillion AFA) per year, one mining analyst predicted.

Central Asia Online

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