The Taliban say they have signed mining contracts worth $6.5 billion in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban government said it signed seven mining contracts Thursday amounting to $6.5 billion in investment, in the biggest such round of deals since seizing power two years ago.

The seven contracts are with locally based companies, many of whom have foreign partners in countries including China, Iran, and Turkey. They include the extraction and processing of iron ore, lead, zinc and gold in four provinces: Herat, Ghor, Logar and Takhar.

A statement on the contracts from Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund gave few details, but said they would create thousands of jobs and significantly improve the economic situation of the country.

Any figures given for the deals could be misleading unless they lead to fully realized mining operations on the ground, which could take years, said Javed Noorani, an expert in Afghanistan’s mining sector.

“The Taliban know Afghanistan has minerals and this is cash, but it’s not easy cash,” Noorani told The Associated Press. “Mineral mining is an incredibly complicated operation. It requires a proper framework, strategies, institutions and infrastructure. You open up the sector slowly and start with low-hanging fruit.”

Nobody from the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum was available to provide further information on the contracts or the companies. The AP contacted the Kabul-based Sahil Middle East Mining & Logistics Ltd, which signed an iron ore deal according to the official statement, but received no immediate response.

The Taliban have been courting foreign investment to revitalize the economy since their takeover.

Nearly 80% of the previous, Western-backed Afghan government’s budget came from the international community. That money, now largely cut off, financed hospitals, schools, factories and government ministries.

The Taliban, like previous administrations in Afghanistan, are pinning their hopes on the country’s vast and untapped mineral resources to line the nation’s coffers. Logar province is believed to hold the world’s largest copper deposit.