Nargis Nehan the acting minister of mines and petroleum said on Tuesday that former minister of urban development and housing, Sayed Mansour Sadat Naderi, resigned from his post so as not to lose two mining contracts he had bid for in his personal capacity.
The contracts involve the Badakhshan Gold Mine and the Sar-e-Pul Balkhab Copper Mine.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Nehan said there had been a delay in rolling out the contract awarded to Naderi’s company Afghan Gold and Minerals Company three years ago, as legally there had been a conflict of interest. At the time Naderi was minister of urban development and housing.
Nehan said that Naderi had eventually chosen to resign so as not to lose the contracts. She also said that Naderi's father, Sayed Mansur Naderi, who had been an MP, had also resigned from parliament for the same reason.
Nehan said according to the law, government officials may not simultaneously hold official positions and own companies that have been awarded government contracts.
According to Nehan, now that Naderi has resigned, the issue of conflict of interest has been cleared up and that the extraction of minerals at the mines will start once the finer details relating to the contracts have been finalized.
“The issue was the conflict of interest. They (Naderi and his father) said they would prefer to resign from government so as not to lose the contract. Not only did Sadat Naderi resign from the ministry, but his father also resigned from parliament,” said Nehan.
Nehan’s claims that the extraction projects were delayed due to the conflict of interest issue have however been rejected by some mining experts, who said the contracts had in fact been cancelled three years ago when Naderi was appointed minister.
“When Mr Naderi was appointed to the cabinet, these projects were canceled. Today, after three years, it is said that based on there being no conflict of interest now, it is possible that these projects will be restored, "said Sayed Zaman Hashimi, a mining rights expert.
When contacted, Naderi would not comment on the issue.
Naderi announced his resignation as minister of urban development and housing last month – stating at the time his resignation had been accepted by President Ashraf Ghani.
Naderi was introduced as nominee minister of urban development and housing by Ghani in March 2015.
In April 2015, he was elected minister after getting 202 votes of confidence out of 239 from MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament).
However, concerns have continued to rise in the country over the illegal extraction of mines in northeastern Badakhshan province.
In January, Pajhwok news agency reported that all mines in that province are being illegally extracted by armed men and militants and that government collected no revenue from these mines in the last solar year.
At the time, Mohammad Haidar, financial and administrative manager at Badakhshan Mines Department, told Pajhwok: “We shared our plans about mining contracts with the private sector section of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum this year, but no action has so far been taken.”
He said revenue from the Badakhshan mines last year had been zero because of the suspension of contracts and no new contracts.
In January, Mines and Petroleum Ministry spokesman Abdul Qadir Mutfa said the ministry had developed a new roadmap for accountability, transparency and utilization of natural resources.
He said one important point in the roadmap was the management of contracts.
Mutfa said the ministry was trying to sign contracts as soon as possible so as to boost government’s revenue.
Badakhshan is a mountainous province and is rich in natural resources, particularly gold, rubies and lapis lazuli. The province shares a border with China, Pakistan and Tajikistan.