The ancient Buddhist settlement of Mes Aynak, about 40 kilometers from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is in danger of disappearing forever due to an exploiting Chinese consortium’s extraction of one of the greatest copper resources in the world.

The Mes Aynak Logar copper mine is currently the subject of negotiations between the new Taliban administration in Afghanistan and China’s state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp. (MCC) and its publicly traded subsidiary Metallurgical Corp. of China.

About 40 kilometers from Kabul, the copper project is situated in an infertile area of Afghanistan’s Logar Province. The second-largest copper deposit in the world is located there, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, with total deposits of 5.5 million tonnes of high-grade copper ore.

In order to make more than $300 million a year from Mes Aynak, or nearly 60% of the whole state budget for 2022, the Taliban wants to accelerate the process.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines’ spokesperson, only technical issues need to be resolved, which should happen shortly, and the conversations are around “80 percent finished.”

However, the mining site, Mes Aynak, is also the site of one of the most important archaeological excavations in the history.

Mes Aynak is a historic city, believed to be about 1,000 to 2,000 years old, on the famous Silk Road network of trade routes that allowed for the flow of goods, cultures, and spiritual practices throughout the historical world.

The Afghan archaeological site has a historical value enough to be compared to the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy and the Inca civilization’s citadel, Machu Picchu in Peru on the Andes mountains.

Not only that the Chinese Copper Project threatens the historical site of Mes Aynak, it is environmentally damaging as copper extraction is highly polluting and uses great amount of water.

 The giant Buddha statues of Bamyan were bombed by the Taliban in March 2001, when the group was last in power. Now the fate of the historical Buddha settlement is in hands of the Taliban.

Author

  • Saqalain Eqbal is an Online Editor for Khaama Press. He is a Law graduate from The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).