Rail plan for Afghan copper mine

AFP reports on November 21:

Afghanistan has chosen a Chinese bidder to lease a copper mine which is possibly the world’s largest, in a contract that is set to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, the mines ministry said Tuesday [20 November 2007].

The 30-year lease has been offered to China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) to develop the Aynak mine 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Kabul, a Afghan mines ministry spokesman said.

China’s commerce ministry said in a statement on its website that MCC, a state-owned metal producer and contractor, and Jiangxi Copper Co. would jointly develop the mine.

MCC, expected to sign a deal in the coming months, is to invest around three billion dollars to explore and develop the mine, which will also provide jobs for thousands of Afghans, Afghan ministry spokesman Kozhman Ulomi said.

The company also said it would build a railway line from the town of Hairatan on the Amu Darya (Oxys River) bordering Uzbekistan, through Logar and to Torkham on the Pakistan border to export the minerals, the official said.

It added that it would construct a town near the mine for 1,500 families. Other spinoffs would include extra demand for Afghan coal and the creation of small industries using other metal taken from the mine, he said.

First discovered in 1974, the mine is estimated to contain 11.3 million tonnes of copper. About 200,000 tonnes could be extracted a year, Ulomi said.

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