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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 19:18 GMT
Afghanistan 'to tout its copper mines'
Copper mine in Chile
The size of Afghanistan's copper mines are unknown
Afghanistan is to invite foreign companies to develop its copper mines by the middle of this year, a report on Radio Afghanistan has said.

The station quoted the minister of mines as saying the country would officially invite several international firms to submit bids for exploration by September this year.

According to Russian estimates, the area holds reserves of 11 billion tonnes, which would make it the biggest copper mining area in the world.

The exploration area in question is in the Logar Province where mines were previously used by the Russians.

An international consortium was also signed up to work in the area in 1998, but work was never carried out due to the civil war, and the mines fell into disrepair.

Long shot?

Afghanistan's copper mines have been highlighted in numerous economic reports as one potential area for future growth.

But experts warn that the estimated reserves were never proved and some doubt that Afghanistan's geology could be so rich in copper.

And Gareth Price, an expert on the region at the Economist Intelligence Unit, also points out that the Afghan government has been talking up potential natural resource in an almost desperate bid for foreign companies to get involved.

But the foreign companies themselves are still very wary of the political instability in the region, and are likely to want to see better infrastructure and a stable monetary system before committing, he says.

Afghanistan was ravaged by war for almost 10 years before the 2000-2001 US strikes, and is now left with the gargantuan task of trying to rebuild its economy.

See also:

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