Afghanistan terminates contracts of two major mining companies

Ashraf Ghani has ordered the termination of the contracts of two mining companies tasked with the extraction of gold and copper deposits in the north of the country. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Afghanistan terminates contracts of two major mining companies

  • Officials from the two mining firms could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the termination of the contracts of two mining companies tasked with the extraction of gold and copper deposits in the north of the country, an official confirmed to Arab News on Monday.

“They failed to fulfil their financial commitments and other terms of the contracts and we needed real investment, that is why the contracts have been terminated,” Abdul Qadir Mutfi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said, adding that the government would have generated millions of dollars from the extraction of the two deposits annually if the same had not been the case.

The decision on the cancelation of the contracts — for the Balkh Aab copper deposit in Sar-e-Pul province and for the gold deposit of Badakhshan — was taken during a High Economic Council meeting last week.

On the basis of the contracts signed in October last year, the Afghan Gold and Mineral Company (AISA) was tasked with extracting copper in a 250 sq km area of Sar-e-Pul while the Turkish Afghan Mining Company (TAMC) was assigned the gold in Badakhshan, covering a region of 250 sq km, a government spokesman said.

Remote and rugged Badakhshan has one of the richest gold reserves in Afghanistan.

Both provinces have become restive in recent years due to Taliban advances and have been subject to illegal mining by both regional commanders as well as armed men linked to the Taliban.

The Afghan Cabinet will decide when the mines will next go for bidding, Mufti said. Officials from the two mining firms could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News.

However, a local online agency, Khama Press, on Sunday said that it had obtained a letter from them, saying that they had fulfilled the four key obligations of the contracts.

Mutfi confirmed that Sayed Mansoor Naderi, a former minister, owned a share in both mines, but rejected allegations that the termination of the contracts was based on Naderi’s decision to drop his support for Ghani during the September presidential elections and back his arch rival instead. 

The offer of the contracts drew criticism from some lawmakers and experts last year. Bari Salaam, a former senior official with a foreign-funded think tank, Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, said that the cancelation of the contracts may be due to political reasons linked to Naderi’s decision not to support Ghani in the polls.

“Unfortunately, the signing of the contract, apart from economic aspects, had its political reasons too and so are the reasons for terminating them now,” Salaam told Arab News.


Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

Updated 42 min 58 sec ago

Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

  • The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption”
  • The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano

MANILA: A major explosion of the Philippines’ restive Taal volcano no longer appears imminent, authorities said Sunday as they partially lifted a mass evacuation order but warned residents should still remain ready to flee.
Warning signs like earthquakes have been steadily waning since Taal burst to life two weeks ago, prompting at least 135,000 people into evacuation centers over fears of a massive eruption.
The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption,” leading them to drop the alert by a notch.
The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano, a tourist attraction that sits in the middle of a lake.
“Residents of all towns under lockdown except Agoncillo and Laurel now have the option to return,” local governor Hermilando Mandanas told a press conference.
“There’s a possibility that the volcano may still erupt and we should still be ready to evacuate in one hour.”
The volcano shot ash 15 kilometers (nine miles) high and spewed lava in the January 12 eruption, which crushed scores of homes and killed livestock as well as crops.
However, seismologists warned the volcano could imminently unleash a much bigger eruption, posing a deadly risk to anyone in a 14-kilometer radius “danger zone.”
Taal, located just 60 kilometers from the capital Manila, is one of the most active volcanoes in a country where eruptions and earthquakes are a dangerous part of life.
Its last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965, a Taal eruption killed some 200 people.
The most powerful volcanic explosion in the Philippines in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.

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