Mining threatens Afghanistan's Buddhist treasures

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by ejazr, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/15/mining-threatens-afghanistan-buddhist-treasures

    For almost 2,000 years a monastery has perched on a rocky outcrop amid the khaki moonscape of Aynak in Afghanistan. In its heyday a pair of mighty turrets towered over an affluent community of monks who exploited local copper deposits and built beautiful places of worship.

    Archaeologists describe it as a site of global historic importance and have in recent months been uncovering intricately constructed mound-like structures called stupas – with vaulted corridor and painted statues, including a magnificent reclining Buddha.

    But the monastery, which is about 20 miles from Kabul, is under threat from the land on which it stands. Directly underneath runs a rich vein of copper for which a Chinese state-owned mining company has agreed to pay $3bn (£1.9bn) for the extraction rights.

    From what was once a courtyard of stupas on top of the monastery, Afghan archaeologists have a clear view of a modern fortified camp of prefabricated buildings with bright blue roofs and housing Chinese workers and technical experts charged with creating the world's biggest opencast copper mine.

    The project, and several others like it, will bring significant revenue to one of the world's poorest countries. But the mine will also threatens to destroy yet more of Afghanistan's rich archaeological history, which has already been ravaged by years of civil conflict, puritanical leaders and unscrupulous antiquities hunters.

    "It is very shameful for the Afghan government to let the Chinese come here and destroy our history," said Abdul Khalid, one of the archaeologists. "People around the world only hear of the war in Afghanistan but they do not know that we have the best of things from our forefathers."

    For him what the Chinese have to offer is beside the point: "It will all just be wasted any way. Much more money comes from foreign countries now than will come from this mine but nothing has improved."

    Philippe Marquis, from the French archaeological delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA), which is assisting the Afghan-led dig, said: "The people need to know more about their own history. If they did that then perhaps people would not think that Afghanistan is a doomed country. This site shows how rich it once was and that during parts of its history a powerful country that was able to do great things."

    The argument is unlikely to impress an Afghan government eager for a copper bounty. When production starts in six years, the government should receive about £250m a year in direct payments; the total benefit to the Afghan economy is estimated at £745m, or 10% of current GDP.

    It is unlikely that the monastery, which is Helmand province, will survive, nor the 12 other Buddhist sites that have been discovered in the area in the past year.

    One option is to move much of the archaeological material, some to a new museum to be built in nearby Logar and some to the rebuilt national museum in Kabul.

    Unfortunately, the statues of Buddha will have to be displayed without their heads, which have been hacked off and sold on the illegal international antiquities market.

    The site was ransacked some time in 2002, when well-organised thieves took advantage of the power vacuum following the fall of the Taliban. Less than 2% of what was taken has been recovered.

    The ground is still littered with tubes of the superglue that the thieves, rumoured to be important local officials, used to try to keep the fragile clay statues together as they were pulled through holes bored into the then yet to be excavated mound.

    The remains, which include fragments of once extensive city walls, are testimony to the immense wealth the ancient settlement once generated from copper. The surrounding hillsides are littered with slag piles of black, pock-marked stones.

    Marquis says the metal was probably used to mint coins and that production halted only when all the available trees had been cut down for fuel.

    Today Chinese projects will not only transform the area but also Afghanistan. Not only has China committed itself to building two electricity generating plants, it is also creating two rail lines in a country that has never had a rail network.

    In an area where insurgency is strong, the Afghan government has already invested heavily in security. That included recruiting 1,500 policemen to guard the perimeter of the site; previously there had only been 750 officers for the entire province.

    Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan's mining minister, said everything is being done to protect the monuments.

    Marquis hopes the government is beginning to think about cultural as well as economic potential to the country.

    "This mine is going to be a test," he said. "Is it possible to develop this country and also preserve its history?"
     
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  3. Parthy

    Parthy Air Warrior Senior Member

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    Afghanistan wants India to invest in mining

    Sitting on mineral deposits worth nearly $1 trillion, Afghanistan has invited India to participate in the mining sector in the battle-scarred nation. Amid increasing Chinese interest in exploiting the mineral-rich fields of Afghanistan, Afghan Mines Minister Waheedullah Shahrani visited New Delhi last week and formally asked New Delhi to prevail on Indian private companies to take part in the global tender floated by the Hamid Karzai government for allotment of mineral fields. The tender is open till the second week of July.

    Minister of Mines B K Handique is believed to have told the Afghan minister that the two countries need to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enable the Indian companies to enter the embattled country for exploiting its mineral wealth. The Afghan minister suggested that New Delhi immediately send a draft proposal to Kabul for the purpose.

    According to senior Indian officials, the draft of the MOU will soon be sent to the Afghan government. The proposed MOU will cover a wide range of issues like investment, exploration and capacity-building in the field of geo-sciences.

    It has also been agreed that an official delegation from the Mines Ministry would visit Afghanistan in April next year for field visit and discussions on the exploration of mineral reserves in that country. The Afghan side was also keen on Indian sponsorships to Afghan nationals in the fields of geology and mining engineering.

    It was in June that the US discovered that the war-ravaged nation was sitting on the world’s largest mineral reserves. The country had mineral deposits far beyond the previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the ongoing war itself.

    The previously unknown deposits, including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals, are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centres in the world.

    Immediately several countries, particularly those in the neighbourhood like India and China swung into action, establishing contacts with the Afghan authorities. Of course, both India and China are engaged in massive development projects in Afghanistan and are quite keen to increase their influence in the region.

    Not only the Karzai government but the people of Afghanistan have also been quite appreciative of the work done by India by pumping in money in development projects to help stabilise the situation in the country. Successive opinion polls in Afghanistan have suggested that India enjoys tremendous goodwill among the ordinary people. New Delhi had been hoping this goodwill could be translated into economic rewards when the time comes for exploiting the mineral assets in Afghanistan.

    For its part, China has also made deep inroads into Afghanistan. It certainly has a major advantage over India, having been the first to become a stakeholder in the existing mines in Afghanistan.

    The state-owned China Metallurgical Group (CMG) scored the biggest win for China when it won rights to Aynak copper mine in the Logar province with a $ 4 billion bid in 2008.

    http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20101118/nation.htm#6
     
  4. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    Whatever happened to "Islamic Superiority" and "Kuffar tribal faiths" now? Funny to hear that Afghan Muslims have a concern for their "past" and recognize their Dharmic origins, only after exterminating us Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs from their countries and dispersing them. This is an added insult to our injury-- first they involve in ethnic cleansing and forced conversions into Islam, then they eradicate those who refuse to become so and now finally treating our faith as a "past" as if we have gone extinct like dinosaurs. Seems Afghan and Kashmiri Muslims have something in common-- intolerance and hatred towards our faith.

    Wonder where the BLOODY HELL was this freaking "concern" when Afghan Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus were being dragged out of their houses and killed; most of whom today have escaped to Germany, Austria, Norway, India and Canada. Had it not been for Pakistan issue, I would have let the bloody present Afghans suffer for this added insult to injury. Now when their own people are getting quashed under Taliban for not being like them, they are expecting the world to give them sympathy; As if!

    Someone has truly and wisely said: Karma does get one in the end.
     
  5. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    If this is genuinely the case, then our peacenik government must realize that as long as there is a stable existing country called Pakistan that has a shadow of military intelligence and Army dominance, all our money is simply going into drains. Until that country exists in one piece and in the hands of their military, our country is threatened, our Afghan investments are threatened, our embassies are threatened and our people working in Afghanistan are threatened--- especially non-Muslims (who are always the main target of terrorists from Pakistan).
     

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