China's pursuit of copper threatens ancient Buddhist ruins in Afghanistan

A Chinese copper project in Afghanistan threatens a wealth of archeological sites dating from the 5th century of the Common Era and earlier.

According to Foreign Policy Mes Aynak in Afghanistan's northwestern province of Logar is host to a trove of archeological ruins including Buddhist monasteries dating from the fifth century of the Common Era as well as far more venerable settlements from the Bronze Age.

Unfortunately for the historians and archeologists seeking to thoroughly explore the sites however, Mes Aynak also harbours one of the world's largest undeveloped copper deposits, which a Chinese miner obtained the rights to develop in 2008 devoid of any conditions concerning the preservation of historical ruins.

A group of Western and Afghan archeologists opposed to the project are now struggling to raise awareness of the historical sites with the hope of delaying the copper development.

Professor Brent E. Huffman of Northwestern University is making a film on the ruins of Mes Aynak, while US Embassy archaeologist Laura Tedesco says that "the site is so massive that it's easily a 10-year campaign of archaeology."

The cash-hungry Afghan government has decided to favor the impoverished nation's economic interests instead of preservation of its cultural heritage sites, however. According to the Afghan Mining Ministry Mes Aynak is host to six million tons of copper worth tens of billions of dollars, whose development by the Chinese will bring much-needed jobs and infrastructure to the area.