(AFP) – Oct 15, 2012
KABUL — Afghanistan's government has published more than 200 mining contracts as part of efforts to keep the growing industry clear of the corruption that plagues almost all aspects of life in the strife-torn nation.
The decision announced this week by the mining minister, Wahidullah Shahrani in Kabul, was welcomed by civil society and anti-corruption watchdogs as a move towards a transparent process.
"The ministry of mines is committed to transparency in mining contracting process," the ministry said in a statement on Monday after the publication of 211 mining contracts on its website.
The documents provide details of contracts signed since 2002, months after the Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion.
Jawad Omar, a mining ministry spokesman, told AFP that some of the contracts released contained "financial, technical and legal flaws".
Among them was a 2008 cement factory contract with a group of investors including a brother of President Hamid Karzai, Mahmood Karzai.
"This contains problems, largely technical and legal flaws," Omar said. He could not provide further details.
"The Afghan government has made a landmark advance in mineral sector transparency, enabling the Afghan people to see and scrutinise the deals negotiated on their behalf," Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), a transparency watchdog, said in a statement.
"Over the last week, it has published in full the 2011 Amu Darya oil contract and more than 200 small mine contracts," IWA, representing a group of civil society and anti-corruption watchdogs said in a statement.
Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has in recent years increased efforts to extract its underground treasures, which are said by the United States Geological Survey to be worth at least $1 trillion.
Afghan officials put the figure at more than $3 trillion.
The poverty-stricken nation signed a deal with China in 2007 to develop a major copper mine -- but that contract was not published due to a "secrecy" agreement with the Chinese, Omar said.
The Aynak mine outside Kabul is estimated to contain over 11 million tonnes of copper, but the Chinese company recently suspended work over security concerns involving an insurgency by Taliban Islamic militants.
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