Dispiriting news. Australia, apparently so proud of exploiting resources, now wants to share this knowledge with a poor nation such as Afghanistan that is open to vulture capitalists. The Australian reports:
Afghanistan is looking to the Australian mining industry for instruction and investment as the war-torn nation stakes its stability and economic future on the success of its nascent natural resources sector.
An Afghan Ministry of Mines delegation will tour Australia in coming weeks on an industry roadshow to convince Australian mining companies that the opportunities for mineral exploitation outweigh the security risks.
The government is also seeking Australian expertise in the creation of an Afghan school of mines. Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said, “Australia is a model for us”.
“The government of Australia has been very generous to help us with our technical capacity, give us scholarships for postgraduate programs in the mining area and we’ve also been sending some people to the Australian department of mines and petroleum,” he told The Australian.
Afghanistan is sitting on enormous mineral wealth.
A review of Soviet-era survey data by the US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves of three billion barrels, 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and significant copper, gold, iron ore, gemstone and lithium deposits.
The survey valued the country’s known natural resources at about $US1 trillion ($970bn), although Mr Shahrani says it could be three times that amount given only 30 per cent of Afghan territory has been surveyed.
Three decades of war and insecurity, coupled with widespread illiteracy, have in the past prevented the successful exploitation of Afghanistan’s minerals wealth.
But with most coalition forces pulling out in December 2014, and international aid to decline after that date, Afghanistan’s future depends heavily on the successful exploitation of its minerals.
“By 2016 we expect revenues to government from mines will be at least $1.5 billion,” Mr Shahrani said.
et security – as ever – remains Afghanistan’s biggest problem.
Major Western mining companies such as Rio Tinto are understood to view Afghanistan, even under NATO forces, as too dangerous and everyone is jittery about the post-2014 landscape when security fully transfers into Afghan hands.
The government has tried to allay those fears by creating a Mines Protection Unit that will secure all projects at the state’s expense.
But it must also convince its own population – weary of occupation and wary of strangers – that foreign exploitation of its mineral resources is the key to its future.
Mr Shahrani says involving local communities in mining projects, through local jobs and community spin-offs, is the best way to reduce risk.
In coming months Kabul will begin a public awareness campaign, sending groups of MPs, officials and journalists to Australia to see the economic benefits mining can deliver.
Mr Shahrani said: “Afghanistan has never been a major mining country, unlike South Africa, Kazakhstan or Australia, so people need to be able to understand its potential.”