Afghan minister holds talks with Chinese mining firm, progress to be expected
Published: Jul 18, 2022 09:34 PM
A copper mine Photo: VCG

A copper mine File photo: VCG

An Afghan government official from the mining sector met with the representative of a Chinese mining company Sunday, and they discussed issues ranging from technical to financial operations of the Aynak copper project, the second-largest copper ore body in the world. But an insider said that no substantive progress was made.

A staffer of Chinese mining giant Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC), the company that owns the Aynak copper project, told the Global Times Monday that the company has staff in Afghanistan at the moment, and they are keeping in close contact with the new Afghan government over the project.

The remark came as the Acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum Sheikh Shahabuddin Delawar held a meeting Sunday with a vice president of MCC-JCL Aynak Minerals Co (MJAM), a Chinese-funded mining company registered in Afghanistan under MCC, according to the official website of the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum.

Discussions were held at the meeting on the latest developments, as well as technical, financial and land acquisition issues, and the transfer of ancient artifacts in the field of the Aynak project, said the ministry.

At Sunday's meeting, the Afghan minister of mines and petroleum said that Afghanistan is committed to preparing for the implementation of the Aynak copper project and putting it to use as soon as possible, so that practical work can be started on it.

While there have been frequent talks, no substantive progress has been made, the Global Times learned.

"The only thing we needed to confirm with the Afghan government is the ownership of the mine, which has already been done with the new government," a staffer with the MCC Group said.

The company won exploration rights for the copper mine project in Mes Aynak in 2007, as one of the high-profile Chinese investment projects in Afghanistan. The mine, which is believed to be the world's second-largest, has an estimated deposit of 5.5 million metric tons of high-quality copper ore, media reported.

But the project was put on hold due to regional instability and some other issues.

According to an employee with the MCC Group, from 2009 to 2014, more than 400 rockets hit the copper mine.

"One reason that the Aynak copper project has not been explored is because of the security and political issues," said the person.

No diplomatic relations have been established between China and the new Afghan government, which is another factor the company will look into, he said.

Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times Monday that political stability is the priority for the exploration of the mine.

"Incomplete infrastructure is another factor that hinders the development of the mine," Liu said, referring to roads and other facilities.