Over one hundred investors and mining executives met the Afghan mining minister in New York this week to discuss the tender for Afghanistan’s largest iron ore mine.
The minister wants to show the global community that Afghanistan’s fledgling mining industry is free from corruption and stable enough to invest in. As part of this PR push, Al Jazeera was part of a group to be flown high up into the mountains west of Kabul to see the mining area stretching over three different provinces.
A dawn flight from Kabul over the Bamiyan and Wardak mountains.
The American Chinook crew dropped the tail gate during the flight, giving us breathtaking views of the mountain range.
The Russians first discovered Afghanistan was sitting on vast mineral reserves decades ago, but conflict prevented the establishment of a mining industry. The Afghans have since used the maps the Soviets drew up to locate copper, iron and oil deposits across the country.
We landed at an altitude of 3500m. At such a height, carrying camera equipment was exhausting. Dizziness and nose bleeds are common up there.
Wahidullah Shahrani, the mining minister, chose the summit to talk to reporters about his plans to find international investors to help Afghanistan set up one of the world’s largest iron ore mines.
Geologists estimate there are two billion tonnes of high-grade iron there, which could generate an annual income of $300 million.
Local people, whose ancestors have lived in this inhospitable terrain for centuries, came to meet the visiting ministerial party. They said they welcome the mine as long as there are jobs in it for them.
An exhausting day up in the mountains for Andre Khalil, our cameraman, but the trip was worth it for the stunning views of Afghanistan’s raw mountain region that could, one day, turn this country’s economy around.