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Responsible resource extraction in Afghanistan: the first strategy

Workshop on Resource Extraction in Afghanistan

A strategic workshop was held to review Adam Smith International’s report of the Afghanistan extractives sector. Photograph: Adam Smith International


Powered by article titled “Responsible resource extraction in Afghanistan: the first strategy” was written by David Phillips and Lois Hooge, for on Monday 6th January 2014 12.08 UTC

Recent data from the US geological survey suggest that Afghanistan possesses approximately US$1-3 trillion of mineral and hydrocarbon resources across its vast territory. Many believe that these resources will be key to the country’s future. However, there are legitimate concerns that their exploitation will harm the environment and, if revenue is not distributed fairly, with local people involved in the mining process, they may even exacerbate tensions in the country and lead to a resurgence of the conflict that has plagued Afghanistan for decades.

Such concerns are not unique to Afghanistan. Environmental damage from mining and the exploitation of oil and gas has occurred in many parts of the world, and whilst massive spills such as the Ixtoc I blowout of 1979 and the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 (both in the Gulf of Mexico) attract considerable media attention, chronic pollution from the extractive industries is much more damaging. Mineral extraction is a well-known source of environmental contamination, in part due to the drainage of many toxic trace metals, which can enter water systems and have a dramatic effect on local wildlife.

Additionally, the ‘resource curse’, which sees negative socio-economic effects appear due to the exploitation of natural resources, has been identified and discussed the world over. The uneven distribution of wealth, often arising in badly managed extractions, frequently gives rise to increased social tensions.

Afghanistan faces the challenge of finding the most appropriate and balanced approach to the development of its natural resources. There is necessity to create an equitable outcome in which extracted resources are used for the benefit of the country and its population as a whole, while protecting its environment.

As an early supporter of moves to prevent detrimental effects of the future mining industry, Adam Smith International has prepared a strategic environmental and social assessment of the Afghanistan extractives sector, known as the SESA-EI. As its name suggests, the SESA-EI report focuses on the environmental and social aspects of the development of the extractive industry in order to protect Afghanistan’s future. It addresses many factors, including existing legislation, relevant institutions, important stakeholders in the sector and artisanal mining. Recommendations in the report reflect both the youth of the sector and the scale of the future challenge for Afghanistan and its citizens.

Unusually and unique for this type of work, a Strategic Workshop on the Extractives Industry Sector (SWEIS) was held to review the report in Kabul over five days in late October 2013, driven and attended by Afghan nationals. The SWEIS was valuable in two distinct ways. First, it acted as an important step for stakeholder interface in the production of the report; and second, it provided a platform to generate an emerging consensus. An impressive 130 stakeholders contributed to the SWEIS, representing a wide range of governmental and non-governmental entities. A final report was presented to the Afghan government in November 2013.

The positive impact of this process remains to be seen over time. It is anticipated that the strategic environmental and social assessment report will continue as a ‘living document’, addressing the changes in the sector in Afghanistan over time. It will also provide input into an extractives industry development framework, which will shortly be prepared by the Afghans to provide broad guidance for the sector’s future development as a whole.

This content is produced and controlled by Adam Smith International. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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