MCC asked to resume work on copper project

PUL-I-ALAM (Pajhwok): Senior officials on Monday said 86 security posts had been set up around the Ainak copper mine in central Logar province and urged investors to resume work on tapping the world’s largest deposits.

A landmark $3 billion deal was signed with the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) and Jiangxi Copper to produce copper in 2007, but the consortium has demanded a review of the deal, dashing Kabul's hope for economic self-reliance.

An independent anti-corruption monitor, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), said the Chinese firms also wanted to delay the start of production by five years to 2019.

The copper site often comes under attack from insurgents, who have succeeded in halting work on the mine. Once production starts, the mine will generate a quarter of a billion dollars a year and create around 75 000 jobs.

Acting Governor Niaz Mohammad Amiri visited the site late on Sunday and inspected security posts recently established in the area. Senior government and security officials accompanied the governor.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Nasim Massoud, the commander of special security forces for the mine, told reporters near the site that 1750 policemen had been deputed to keep security for the project.

He said the police deployment would prevent insurgents from launching attacks on the site or create problems for workers. He declared the Chinese firm could resume its extraction activities at the mine.

Massoud accused Pakistan of creating insecurity in areas near the mine, but said insurgents would not be allowed create insecurity in the areas.

Acting Governor Amiri said his visit to the mine site was aimed at inspecting security arrangements. He said security for the mine project had been ensured and the Chinese company could fearlessly resume its activities.

“MCC should not make insecurity an excuse; it should come and restart work because security in all areas around the mine has been ensured,” the acting governor claimed.

The visiting officials inspected a number of security posts in the area including those built on hilltops.

Amiri was talking to reporters at a security post 10 kilometres from the site. “We have resolved all issues related to the government. Now it is up to the Chinese company to come and resume work.”

Provincial council member Dr. Abdul Wali Wakil said there was no threat to the project and all security related-issues had been addressed. “Security has been ensured. The Chinese should start work now,” he stressed.

Another member of the council, Syed Qarib Sadat, told Pajhwok Afghan News the government should mount pressure on the Chinese firm to resume work at the earliest.

The acting mines minister recently told lawmakers work at the Ainak mine had been halted due to the discovery of ancient artifacts at the site.

Pajhwok sent an email to MCC seeking its comments on security posts near the mine, but there has been no reply yet. MCC has agreed to build a power plant and copper smelter besides laying a railway line under the 2007 deal.

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