Ministry of Mines and Petroleum on Monday said they have terminated the extraction contract of Herat’s Ghoryan salt mine signed with a private company two months ago following the discovery of minerals including lithium and uranium.
The spokesman for the ministry of mines Abdul Qadir Mutfi said their recent studies showed that these minerals are present at the mine. As such they have terminated the contract with the contractor, he said.
Ghoryan salt mine is the only mining contract to have been signed by the National Unity Government (NUG).
“This was a small contract and was contracted as a pilot extraction, but we are trying to ensure the country's mines are extracted based on the country's needs,” Mutfi said.
The contractors were not however happy about the new development and said it took them two years and a lot of money to secure the contract.
Nasir Ahmad Tahiri, the head of the contracting company, said in addition to preliminary investments made in the mine, they have had to pay money to meet the conditions of the contract.
According to Tahiri, the termination of the contract means a huge financial loss to them.
“The economic council and mining ministry worked on this mine for two years. It should be asked why the ministry of mines did not assess the mine to find out if there was salt or something else (before awarding the contract),” said Tahiri.
“This shows that government does not have the capacity to manage the mines. This was a small contract and they signed after a few years, but now they say it has been terminated,” Zaman Hashimi, a mining expert said.
Mutfi said however they will reimburse the company for the money paid out.
Based on the contract, the company had an obligation to invest up to $400,000 USD in the mine and to pay 1,065 AFs to government for every ton of salt mined.
The contract said the company would have extracted up to 25,000 tons of salt annually.