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.


Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

  • Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks
  • The Australian government said it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry

MELBOURNE: The Australian government said on Sunday it will financially aid the country’s tourism sector that’s been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as Melbourne braced for downpours at the start of one of its greatest allures, the Australian Open.
Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.
The Australian government said on Sunday it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry.
Twenty-nine people have been killed in the fires while thousands of animals have also perished.
Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne where the year’s first Grand Slam starts on Monday, but the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged Victoria were bracing for heavy rains.
“Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months,” Dean Narramore from the state’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
More than 780,000 fans attended the two-week Australian Open last year, according to figures from the office of the state’s premier, providing a major influx of cash for Victoria’s economy.
Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.
The government said the aid announced on Sunday was “an initial push” to help the country’s A$152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly vital part of Australia’s economy, that accounts for more than 3 percent of annual economic output.
In a joint statement released with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to the Australian tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it’s absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities,” Birmingham said.