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Ancient Buddhist site faces threat from mining

August 15, 2010

By Tenzin Tsering
August 6, 2010

Dharamsala, August 6 -- A two millennia Buddhist
site covering 4500 square metre monastery in
Afghanistan’s Mes Aynak hill, faces impending
demolition for mining, reported Andrew Lawyer to

A mining project worth $3 billion is awarded to
China Metallurgical Group Corp by the Afghan
government which plans to dynamite the ancient
monastery located near the capital, Kabul.

It is estimated that China will extract 200,000
tons of copper and provide Afghan government with
up to $400 million in annual revenues.

A group of Afghan French archaeologists who
recently uncovered more than 100 statues, stupas,
and a 5 metre long reclining Buddha among other
relics have raised concern saying though the plan
to blow up the monastery in last April was stalled, the proposition remains.

Chinese have started building a railroad,
housing, and a power plant nearby, in preparation for mining.

Archaeologists are hoping to draw international
support to save the historical site which will
provide new information about how Buddhism
flourished in the region and coexisted with Islam during one era.

"The monastery flourished from as early as the
2nd century BC until at least the 6th century AD
although it may have continued as a settlement
until as late as the 9th century AD" said
Phillipe Marquis, head of the French Archaeologists’ team in Afghanistan.

He proposed a view saying "copper mining and the
monastery can coexist by creating a protected
archaeological area that eventually could
generate tourism income” for the war torn country
who are in desperate need of foreign revenues.

Marquis further added that -- Karzai (President
of Afghanistan) is the one who can say no" and
abort the annihilation of the ancient monastery.

"The site is huge and we have amazing remains.
Time is running short.This place is going to be
destroyed in a few months, and we need to find
another solution -- or the site is doomed" said
Nader Rassouli, director of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Archeology.

AFP reported that the hill has already been
heavily looted and quoted Marquis as saying, "the
problem of plundering of historic sites in
Afghanistan is not only an Afghan problem,it is also an international one."

This latest threat on the Buddhist monument is
reminiscent of the destruction of two monumental
Buddha statues carved into a mountain at Banyam,
Afghanistan by the Taliban a decade ago.

The two statues standing at 121 and 180 feet high
were destroyed by the Taliban in early March 2001
calling them "idolatrous and un-Islamic."
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