Chinese Company to Mine 2600-Year-Old Buddhist Site

In Afghanistan, the world’s largest second largest copper deposit sits below a sacred Buddhist site, which contains more than 200 statues and a 100-acre monastery complex. The site is now in danger of being destroyed by China Metallurgical Group, which won a $3 billion, 30-year lease to mine the site in Afghanistan’s largest foreign investment project to date. Filmmaker Brent Huffman has produced a documentary about the site, and was recently interviewed about it on CNN:


Huffman also wrote about the site and his project for Asia Society:

The Buddhists that picked the location of a religious center in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, some 2,000 years ago did so in part to make ornaments and coins from the copper at the site. Today, a Chinese mining company may destroy what they left behind to extract that same resource.

That is, unless a team of Afghan archaeologists led by Philippe Marquis, director at the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA), can put a stop to it. While making a documentary film about the mining project from July 2011 to April 2012, I filmed Marquis and his team frantically searching for artifacts and others attempting rescue preservation with limited equipment like cloth wraps and plastic tarps.

“We have only discovered the tip of the iceberg, a mere 10 percent of the site,” said Marquis, who believes this could easily be a 10-year excavation project.

Efforts to save and preserve the massive site have been drastically scaled back to a project whose best hope is to merely document the site before the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) begins copper excavation in 2014. The remaining cultural relics and immense structures, which are both too large and fragile to be moved, will all be destroyed.

Read more about Mes Aynak via CDT and Wikipedia and from Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage. See photos of the site from LiveScience.

This post has been edited to correct the name of the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage.


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