Tom Mills | The Extractive Industries and Society
This paper proposes a re-evaluation of the consensus on large scale extractives led development in Afghanistan. The paper builds on existing research which has focused on mitigating the downside risk of mineral extraction. The study asks if the benefits accrued to the country’s current and future citizens would be greater if large-scale exploitation were postponed or a different approach to maximising the value of the country’s sub-soil assets taken. The paper examines the opportunity presented by large scale extraction and illustrates that the economic benefits which should result from this approach are unlikely to be realised due to governance gaps. Economic, social and environmental risks of large-scale mining are found to be significant. These risks are intensified by the limited capacity of the government of Afghanistan to mitigate these risks through good governance. The paper proposes and evaluates an alternative model for harnessing Afghanistan’s mineral wealth: labour-intensive small and medium scale mining, which is more suitable to Afghanistan’s specific contextual factors. It argues that although challenges of small and medium scale extraction exist, this approach should be prioritised over large-scale extraction in Afghanistan, until a time when the use of revenues from large scale mining can be maximised.