CSOs to government: Scrap gold and copper contracts

Wahidullah Azizi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan | @WahidSays

In a rare show of unity, hundreds of representatives of civil society organizations and activists from Nangarhar, Laghman, Kapisa, Parwan, and Kabul on Saturday (October 13) called on the government to immediately scrap recently-signed contracts for the exploration of gold and copper deposits in the north of Afghanistan. The activists and representatives expressed their concerns at what they called illegal mining contracts that violated the law.

Speaking at the grand gathering, Sayed Ikram Afzali said that conflict of interest and violation of the law are the two main concerns with regard to these contracts. According to him, awarding the contracts has violated the mining law.

“Article 16 of the mining law prevents the president, vice presidents, and cabinet members from obtaining mining contracts while in office. Additionally, there is a five-year cooling off period following their resignation or dismissal,” he added. But the mentioned contracts were awarded to a company owned by Mr. Saadat Mansoor Nadiri, ex-minister for housing and urban development, only after three months of Mr. Nadiri’s resignation.

Aziz Rafiee, managing director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum who addressed the gathering, ­was of the opinion that the government was not ready to manage major mining contracts and criticized weak governance at the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum. “Currently, the government has no capacity for managing major mining contracts.” Recently, a sedimentary salt-extracting contract from a Herat mine was canceled due to lack of capacity, trustworthiness, and leadership. The contract was declared null a void a few months after being signed.

Privatizing the ongoing war in Afghanistan and its funding through mining resources was another major concern that was discussed at the gathering, with participants anticipating its outcomes as “dangerous”. Mr. Afzali, Integrity Watch executive director, said: “Those who press for the funding of war through mining resources should think once again … the government should put the interest of Afghans ahead of everything else” he stressed.

Mir Afghan a participant from Nangarhar province, expressed his concern at plans to privatize the war If funded through Afghanistan’s mining revenue, the conflict would take an inordinately-long time coming to an end, he warned.

On October 5, the government awarded two major contracts to Centar Ltd, a British company, and its Afghan firm in which Sayed Mansoor Sadat has major shares. The signing ceremony, attended by acting ministers of finance and mining and petroleum, took place in Washington DC.

The company will dig for gold and copper in Badakhshan and Sare-e-Pul provinces both located in north of the country. Conflict of interest, lack of transparency in the contracts and privatizing the current conflict are the major concerns of civil society representatives.

At the end of the public meeting, the speakers demanded in a resolution cancellation of the contracts and claimed they were clearly in violation of the relevant laws.

Link to the resolution.