Iran can use its experience and expertise in the mining sector to beat its two main rivals in the region, India and China, in exploiting Afghanistan’s untapped mineral reserves, says deputy head of Geological Survey of Iran.
“Since systematic mineral exploration has never been carried out in Afghanistan, many of the country’s mineral-rich zones are still untapped,” Behrouz Borna was quoted as saying by Eghtesad News.
“The presence of Iran in Afghanistan’s mining sector will highly benefit both sides.”
According to the GSI official, Afghanistan’s oil and gas reserves, estimated at about $223 billion, are dwarfed by the country’s $1 trillion mineral reserves, including iron ore, lithium, cobalt and gold, as well as precious stones such as emerald and lapis.
Borna noted that the Mes Aynak Copper Mine, located in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, is the world’s second largest copper reserve.
The site is also home to the remains of an ancient settlement with over 400 Buddha statues, stupas and a 40-hectare monastery complex.
The Afghan Mining Ministry estimates that the mine holds some 6 million tons of copper. The mine is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars.
In November 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan’s history.
Allegations have persisted that the then-minister of mines obstructed the contracting process and accepted a large bribe to eliminate the other companies involved in the bid. International experts have warned that the project, and other similar projects in Afghanistan, could be threatened because the Chinese group has not fulfilled promises made to the Afghan government, such as the lack of provision of proper housing for relocated villagers.
Borna referred to a memorandum of understanding signed by Iran, Germany and Afghanistan based on which Iran and Germany agreed to share their mining knowhow with Afghanistan in exploration and exploitation projects.
During a visit to Iran last week, Afghanistan’s Mines and Petroleum Minister Davood Shah Saba called for Iran’s investment in Afghanistan’s mining industry, saying Afghanistan gives priority to neighboring countries, especially to Iran, when it comes to investment, due to religious, cultural and linguistic commonalities.
Earlier in April, in a meeting with senior members of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani pledged to offer every possible help for mining investments in his country. He ordered his minister of finance to identify obstacles in the way of Iranian investment in Afghanistan and take necessary steps to remove them.