A promise by the Taliban to safeguard the world’s second largest untapped copper deposit is being downplayed by the sitting government of Afghanistan.
In a statement on November 29, the shadowy group known for harbouring Osama bin Laden following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, said that the Mes Aynak copper deposit is among those that it would allow for development.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan directs all its Mujahideen to help in the security of all national projects that are in the higher interest of Islam and the country,” reads the statement quoted by CNBC.
The Taliban has been fighting the U.S.-backed Afghan government since 2001, when their authoritarian regime was overthrown. An Afghan government spokesman dismissed the Taliban’s invitation to develop Mes Aynak, which in 2008 was signed over to Metallurgical Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
“The Taliban never protects projects, and it isn’t their job. There is no stake for a terrorist group in the [national] projects,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, in the CNBC piece.
The 30-year agreement between Afghanistan and China allows Metallurgical Group Corporation to access Mes Aynak, but the project has been stalled due to security concerns in the war-torn country. It also lies beneath a historic Buddhist city said to date back to the Bronze Age.
The prospective mine is located 40 kilometres southeast of Kabul, in a barren region of Logar Province.
According to U.S estimates, Afghanistan could be sitting on mineral deposits worth $1 trillion. The deposits are mainly copper but also include gold, iron ore, uranium and precious stones, such as emeralds.
Earlier this year Afghanistan deployed security forces to ensure that insurgents fighting to overthrow the government do not benefit from illegal mining of lapis lazuli, the semi-precious blue stone once coveted by Egyptian pharaohs.