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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 15:52 GMT
China wins major Afghan project
By Ian MacWilliam
BBC News

A rocket lies on the ground in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has suffered decades of war
A Chinese mining company has won a tender to develop one of the world's largest copper mines in Afghanistan.

The state-owned China Metallurgical Group says it will invest nearly $3bn in the mine at Aynak in the province of Logar, south of Kabul.

Officials say it will be the largest foreign investment in Afghan history and will employ 10,000 people.

When construction is complete the company will pay the Afghan government $400m a year.

'World-class'

The Afghan government wants to attract foreign companies to make mining a key sector of an economy that is on a slow recovery after three decades of war.

The Aynak copper deposits in Logar province were first explored by Soviet geologists in the 1970s. But then the Soviet invasion of 1979 and years of warfare put an end to plans to develop them.

Officials say the area contains an estimated 13 million tonnes of copper, making it a world-class site.

It is also in a relatively safe area, not far from the capital.

The $3bn that the China Metallurgical Group is to invest in Aynak compares with a total of $4bn which the Afghan government says foreign companies have invested in the country since the overthrow of the Taleban six years ago.

Once it goes into operation in five years' time, the mine will provide hundreds of millions of dollars of much-needed revenue for the cash-starved Afghan government.

It will also provide thousands of jobs in a land where unemployment is one of the most pressing problems.

Kabul hopes to attract more foreign mining firms.

The Aynak tender was hotly contested by companies from Canada, Australia and Russia, as well as China.

Experts say Afghanistan's mountains are rich in minerals, which could become a significant base for the revival of the country's shattered economy.

Apart from copper, there is coal, iron, gas and oil.

There is also a sparkling assortment of gemstones - emeralds, tourmalines and garnets, and the lapis lazuli mines which provided jewelry for the Egyptian pharoahs three thousand years ago.

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