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Corruption threatens Afghanistan’s mining future

AT News

KABUL – In a recent development, the Nuraba-Samti placer gold mine in Takhar province has become a focal point for concerns over the deep-rooted corruption plaguing Afghanistan’s mining sector. The awarding of a contract to a China-Afghan joint venture has raised eyebrows, especially considering the involvement of Haji Bashir, a notorious drug smuggler with ties to the Taliban.

The mine, known for its potential gold deposits, has a complex history marked by corruption and mismanagement. The original contract with West Land General Trading (WLGT) in 2008 underwent questionable changes favoring WLGT, leading to financial troubles and the destruction of the Nuraba mine. Despite owing substantial revenue to the Kabul government, WLGT’s contract was later terminated.

In 2023, the Taliban government awarded the mine to a China-Afghan joint venture, promising 56% of profits to the government. However, the lack of transparency in the bidding process and the involvement of Haji Bashir, known for his illicit activities, raises concerns about the legitimacy of the deal. The joint venture, led by Haji Bashir, lacks the necessary expertise and experience in mining, casting doubt on its ability to fulfill ambitious promises, including a $310 million investment in three years.

The chain of corruption becomes more apparent when examining the Chinese partner’s involvement. Private professional Chinese mining companies have historically avoided large mineral mines in Afghanistan due to international sanctions and political sensitivity. The sudden collaboration with Haji Bashir suggests a trading company masquerading as a mining venture, with potential exploitation of small-scale Chinese developers for investments.

The unrealistic timeline and financial commitments outlined in the contract further fuel skepticism about the project’s viability. A lack of open and transparent cost calculations raises questions about the claimed 56% profit to the government. Given Afghanistan’s history of concealing production and smuggling goods, concerns arise about the potential for further corruption and the negative impact on the Afghan mining industry.

This chain reaction of corruption, intertwining the Taliban government, Haji Bashir, and the Chinese partner, is a cause for alarm. The Afghan administration and small-scale Chinese developers may bear the brunt of this collusion, while the Samti mine’s development is jeopardized. As Afghanistan struggles to attract genuine foreign investment, addressing systemic corruption is crucial for the sustainable growth of its mining sector.

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