KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan authorities on Friday signed two contracts for the exploration of copper and gold deposits within the north, in a bid to maneuver away from the nation’s dependence on overseas support by tapping its mineral wealth.
However watchdog teams say that elements of the contracts could violate the legislation and irritate questionable practices which have marred the sector for years. Strongmen and political elites have lengthy profited from the nation’s riches, and mineral wealth might flip into one other supply of instability in a rustic mired in many years of warfare.
The contracts, which had been stalled for years, have been signed in Washington between the Afghan ministers of finance and mining, and executives from Centar Ltd., an funding firm based by Ian Hannam, a former J.P. Morgan banker who partnered with native Afghan corporations to bid for the mines.
Centar’s native associate is Sadat Naderi, who till June was Afghanistan’s minister of city improvement. The Afghan minerals legislation prohibits senior officers from bidding on mining contracts for 5 years after they depart authorities.
Civil society activists say authorities officers appeared pressured to maneuver ahead with the contracts regardless of unresolved authorized points.
“They signed the contracts with out giving us passable solutions on issues that the contracts have been very clearly towards the legislation,” mentioned Sayed Ikram Afzali, the chief director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan who met repeatedly with senior officers, together with the Afghan president and vice chairman, to debate issues. “It was very clear that they have been below strain to maneuver on with these contracts — they mentioned they have been going through worldwide strain to finalize these.”
The placement of the signing was vital. The Afghan authorities has repeatedly dangled its mineral wealth in front of President Trump, who is losing patience with the costly presence of American troops in the country.
“Regardless of whether or not this is a good deal for Afghanistan, approving a contract in apparent contravention of the minerals law would undermine the government’s declarations that it is bringing the rule of law to the sector,” said Stephen Carter, the Afghanistan campaign leader at Global Witness, an organization focused on mining and conflict.
The contracts call for developing a copper deposit in Balkhab district of Sar-e Pol Province and a gold deposit in Badakhshan Province. Although the value of the two mineral deposits is not clear, Centar said if exploration finds large-scale mining opportunities, the projects could generate $1 billion in economic impact and more than 10,000 jobs.
The government of President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in September 2014, immediately halted major mining contracts issued by its predecessor because over concerns of corruption. Mr. Naderi was a political ally of Mr. Ghani during the election campaign, and he was appointed to his cabinet.
Because the two contracts had been completed by the previous government — which had chosen the consortium as favored bidder long before Mr. Naderi became a cabinet minister, but had left the official signing to the new government — officials say the contracts do not violate the law. To avoid even “perceptions of a conflict of interest,” Mr. Naderi resigned from the government in June.
Mr. Afzali, of Integrity Watch, said the contract that was agreed upon by the previous government has been revised considerably since that time.
“During the renegotiation of the contract, Mr. Naderi was still a cabinet minister,” Mr. Afzali said.
The Afghan government provided contradictory information on when the renegotiation happened. Ajmal Ahmady, an adviser to Mr. Ghani, said the contract was renegotiated only after Mr. Naderi resigned in June. However the authorized director of the Ministry of Mines mentioned throughout a information convention that the negotiations had been happening for 15 months.
Fatima Faizi contributed reporting.