A document seen by TOLOnews shows that the Afghan government has awarded a five-year "framework agreement" for the development of mining in Afghanistan to an Australian company, giving it access to gold, copper, iron, lithium, and other rare minerals resources in the country.
The "framework agreement" has been signed in 2020 September with the Australian Fortescue Future Industries Pty Ltd company, the document shows.
Based on the document, the Afghan government has committed to not allow any other company or individual to have access to those mineral resources in the country in the next five years.
“The Afghan government does not have the authority to hand over the entire country of Afghanistan to a single company all of a sudden without proper bidding and without an assessment and competition,” said MP Khan Agha Rezayee.
Based on the document, Fortescue Future Industries Pty Ltd will undertake studies on iron resources in Bamiyan, Panjshir, Herat, Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces.
The studies for copper and gold will take place in Helmand, Kandahar, Logar, Herat, Badakshan and Takhar provinces, the document shows, but it has not clarified whether the access will be for exploration or mining.
Under the document, the company will be given access to lithium and rare earth metals resources in Nuristan, Kunar, Parwan, Badakhshan, Daykundi, Herat, Nimroz, Ghazni and Helmand provinces.
Hours after the document was leaked to the media, the mines and petroleum minister Haroon Chakhansuri said the company will be given access for studies, not the extraction of the mineral resources.
“According to this document, the company has conducted its economic survey and has shown willingness to invest in the mines and the exploration... The extraction will take place in line with the laws of the country,” said Aziz Gharwal, the head of the media department of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum.
Former legal director of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has said that according to the law, mining projects should be open to bidding at any stage, and, on the other hand, a part of the signed document guarantees the company exclusive rights in the extraction stage.
“They are given the exclusive right to study and explore Afghanistan's mines. Following their research, they will have the right to extract and use the mines under this agreement,” said Sayed Zaman Hashemi, the head of Afghanistan's Chamber of Mines and Investment.
The Afghan government has signed five documents with the Australian company, including some for the construction of large dams.
“They will study the document and then practical work will start on the major dams. They will establish five major dams on the Kunar river, Helmand river and Amur river,” said Nizamuddin Khpolwak, a spokesman for the National Water Regulatory Authority.
Former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil has criticized the agreement and has called it a "national treason."
Nabil has said that Fortescue Future Industries Pty Ltd is an Australian-Chinese firm. The Ministry of Mines rejected Nabil's remarks.
President Ashraf Ghani, Attaullah Nasib, the head of the Investment Facilitation Unit of the Administration Office of the President, as well as Haroon Chakhansuri, the minister of mines and petroleum, have signed the document. Dr. Andrew Forrest, the owner of the company and Julie Shuttleworth, a member of the company, have also signed the document.