Afghan minister vows no corruption over mineral riches

25th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Afghanistan will be totally transparent in awarding contracts to exploit vast mineral wealth in the war-torn country, its mines minister vowed Friday.

Wahidullah Shahrani, in London to promote opportunities for foreign investors, told BBC radio that Kabul had taken steps to clean up its reputation for corruption.

Under new legislation Kabul will "make sure whatever will be the revenue from the mining operations, it will collected in a very transparent manner, and they will be allocated through the normal budgetary procedures," he added.

A recent study by US geologists found Afghanistan had reserves of valuable minerals on a larger scale than previously believed, possibly up to one trillion dollars.

The value of the minerals, which include lithium, iron, gold, niobium, mercury and cobalt, was estimated at about a trillion dollars, the study said.

Former mines minister Mohammad Ibrahim Adel was dropped from the cabinet in February after US media reports that he accepted as much as 20 million dollars to give a copper mine contract.

But his successor Shahrani said Friday: "There are some allegations that have been published in the media. But we have not been able to come up with some evidence."

He stressed that Karzai's government is working with the World Bank, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the International Advisory Council (IAC) to ensure openness.

"We have already committed to them that all our mining operations .. should be overseen by the International Advisory Council to help the government to achieve the highest degree of transparency," he added.

President Hamid Karzai said in January that the deposits could help one of the world's most impoverished nations become one of the richest, based on preliminary findings of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The mineral wealth of the country has not yet been exploited because the country has been mired in conflict for three decades, and is today embroiled in an insurgency by Islamist militants led by the Taliban.

© 2010 AFP

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