Report / April 24, 2012

Getting to Gold: How Afghanistan’s first mining contracts can support transparency and accountability in the sector

Read the press release: Future of Afghan mining sector threatened by weak contracts, here

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Global Witness’s report, Getting to Gold*, provides a unique analysis of two of the country’s biggest mining deals to date: the 2008 Aynak copper contract and the 2011 Qara-Zaghan gold contract. The report raises serious concerns over levels of transparency in both contracts, as well as the level of community engagement.

In 2010, Afghanistan was announced to hold huge mineral deposits, totalling an estimated US$1 trillion dollars. Since then, the Government and international community have been focused on developing the industry as quickly as possible.

In a country with high levels of poverty and ravaged by war, the terms upon on which this mineral wealth is provisioned could have far reaching impacts on the country’s future. However our research reveals how Afghanistan’s future mining industry risks being undermined by contracts which are not fully transparent, don’t provide for engagement with local communities, and are missing important safeguards.

While welcoming the publication of the later Qara-Zaghan contract, the report raises serious concerns over levels of transparency in both deals, as well as the level of community engagement. The Qara-Zaghan contract also fails to include key international standards on the environment, security and social responsibilities, raising fears these omissions could contribute to future conflict and corruption.

As well as transparency over contracts, Global Witness is calling on the Afghan government to publish all associated project documents which cover security, social, environmental and human rights obligations, as well as details of the corporate structure and ultimate ownership of any investing companies. It is also appealing for environmental, social and human rights concerns highlighted in this analysis to be addressed.

These steps are vital in ensuring that the country’s natural resource wealth benefits the people of Afghanistan, rather than causing further instability and conflict.

*In reviewing the Aynak and Qara-Zaghan contracts, Global Witness has benefited from the invaluable support of a range of experts.  We would like to express our particular thanks to the Essex Business and Human Rights Project for their input into this report.