PUL-I-ALAM/KABUL (Pajhwok): President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday paid a surprise visit to central Logar province and terminated contracts with two foreign mining companies involved in extraction of chromite, the acting governor said.
Niaz Mohammad Amiri said the president arrived on an unannounced visit and inspected the Mes Aynak copper reservoirs. He said the president scrapped contracts with the two foreign firms, but he had no idea why.
He also did not know about the countries the two firms belonged to, but said the contracts had been awarded to them by the Ministry of Mines and the firms would export the chromite abroad for processing.
The governor said President Ghani wanted a factory to be established in Logar for processing chromite in order to create jobs for locals and benefit more from the natural resource.
He said the president believed better utilization of Afghanistan’s minerals would help improve the country’s security situation. During his visit, the president inspected the Mes Aynak copper mine and the recently discovered heritage sites there.
The president met security officials providing security for the mine and urged them to strengthen coordination among them and their cooperation with the provincial departments and ensure that the miners were protected.
Chinese state-owned mining giant MCC signed a US$3 billion contract in 2007 to mine and process the copper, but is yet to start work on the project, citing security concerns.
Amiri said tight security arrangements had been put in place around the copper mine and there was no such issue that hindered work at the site, one of the world’s biggest.
He said 1,650 security personnel had been keeping security for the mine. But why the Chinese had stopped extraction works at the site should be asked from them, the acting governor said.
The Presidential Palace issued a statement, saying President Ghani had directed security personnel to enhance coordination among them to better secure the copper mine and allow for the extraction work to start soon.
The statement said the president inspected various parts of the mine. Ghani said relations between Afghanistan and China had entered a new phase and key steps were needed to further improve the ties.
Calling the Mes Aynak mine an important economic source, the president said China was concerned about the site’s security. In order to start extraction work at the earliest, the president said it was crucial that security forces improve coordination among them in providing security to the key deposit.
The president also visited the recently discovered heritage sites at the Mes Aynak village and issued necessary directives to the Ministry of Information and Culture about preservation and protection of the historic objects.
On the surprise trip, the president was accompanied by acting Information and Culture Minister Syed Musaddiq Khalili, Deputy Mines and Petroleum Minister Amir Ahmad Javed, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ghulam Nabi Farahi, presidential advisor on culture affairs Assadullah Ghazanfar, provincial acting governor and a number of security officials.