News - Afghanistan
Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Shah Saba told lawmakers in Parliament on Monday that the Daesh group is a grave threat to the Afghan mining industry.
Decreased interest from foreign companies in investing in the Afghan mining sector, including the voiding of the Aynak copper mine and Hajigak mine contracts, were what prompted the minister's visit to Parliament this week.
However, attention on Monday was shifted away from the ministry's competence and track record, thanks to Minister Saba's claims. According to him, Daesh affiliates in Afghanistan are trying to finance their operations through the illegal exploitation of Afghan minerals, much similar to what the group has done with oil in Iraq and Syria.
"The presence and activities of Daesh are a new security challenge for us, because Daesh is looking for ways to access economic resources. The mines of Afghanistan can be a good economic source for this group," Saba said to MPs on Monday. "The activities of this group create insecurities; for example, we have 339 contracts, of which we cannot monitor over 100 of them due to security challenges."
The Chairman of the House called Saba's statements shocking and demanded the national unity government take immediate action to address the issues facing the mining sector as well as the ministry more specifically. Close to 40 MPs asked questions during the session.
In addition to the challenges posed by Daesh, Minister Saba outlined a number of other more internal problems facing his ministry. He said there is an overall lack of capacity, vague policies and absence of strategies when it comes to the mining sector.
"With the capacity that I saw at the Ministry of Mines, I had goose bumps; if we move forward with these capacities, we will go toward a disaster rather than welfare," he said.
Saba also strongly criticized the level of interest shown by the Chinese MCC Company, which he said had reneged on its commitments. "The ministry is not able to cancel the Aynak copper mine contract," Saba said. "If I cancel this agreement, they will introduce me to the international courts, as there are some very tight laws and articles in this agreement."
Much of the blame for the ministry's failings Saba placed squarely on the shoulders of the former government. "I have documents that show that the contractor for Amo River did not implement any of its commitments," he said. "But, meanwhile, canceling their contract is also very difficult."