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Archaeologists Fighting to Protect Mes Aynak

A Victory for Archaeologists Fighting to Protect Mes Aynak

Back in April we told you about a 5,000 year-old settlement in Afghanistan called Mes Aynak, facing destruction by a Chinese mining company who were drooling at the prospect of exploiting its rich copper reserves worth an estimated 100 billion dollars and set to become the world’s biggest copper mine. 

The contract between Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Chinese state-owned China Metallurgical Group (MCC) was devastating for archaeologists who had been working tirelessly to recover the priceless remains of ancient Buddhist and Zoroastrian temples, ornately carved floors, delicate frescoes, manuscripts and other treasures. 

Now, in a victory for archaeologists, the Ministry of Mines wants to renegotiate the multibillion-dollar contract for the site and mining works have been delayed for at least two years, giving archaeologists more time to recover the lost treasures of Mes Aynak. 

While the China Metallurgical Group (MCC), ‘generously’ announced that "the cultural artefacts are the most important thing", the reality is that the Chinese mining camp had to be evacuated last Summer after a Taliban rocket attack and the ongoing instability in the region has forced delays upon the company who is anxious to start drawing in its billions of dollars of profits each year.

The contract has already been fraught with controversy since its outset – it was shadowed by corruption allegations since its sign-off six years ago and the Minister who agree it resigned shortly after reports surfaced that he had pocketed a $30m bribe from MCC. 

In a world where profits and greed take priority over the preservation of our ancient past, archaeologists can be reassured that all is not yet lost for Mes Aynak.

By April Holloway

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