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Sun Dec 23, 2012, 03:32 PM


Ancient Buddhas, Modern Peril

Chinese-Led Copper Mining Threatens Afghan Buddhist Monasteries - NYTimes.com:

WHEN the Taliban blasted the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with artillery and dynamite in March 2001, leaders of many faiths and countries denounced the destruction as an act of cultural terrorism. But today, with the encouragement of the American government, Chinese engineers are preparing a similar act of desecration in Afghanistan: the demolition of a vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries.

The offense of this Afghan monument is not idolatry. Its sin is to sit atop one of the world’s largest copper deposits.

The copper at the Mes Aynak mine, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, is to be extracted under a roughly $3 billion deal signed in 2007 between Afghanistan and China’s Metallurgical Group Corporation. The Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, recently said the project could pump $300 million a year into government coffers by 2016. But the project has been plagued by rumors of corruption; there was widespread talk of a $30 million kickback involving the former minister of mines, who resigned.

In 2009, archaeologists were given a three-year deadline ........

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Arrow 1 replies Author Time Post
Reply Ancient Buddhas, Modern Peril (Original post)
Coyotl Dec 2012 OP
Judi Lynn Dec 2012 #1

Response to Coyotl (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:07 PM

1. Just went to check "google images" to get a photo to post after your article.

Just don't have the heart to do it.

You need to see the scope of what will be destroyed by clicking the link to the whole collection of images of what is going to be vaporized by the Chinese government:



Mes Aynak ("little copper well" is a site 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, located in a barren region of Logar Province. The site contains the world’s second largest copper deposit, as well as the remains of an ancient settlement with over 400 Buddha statues, stupas and a 100-acre (40 ha) monastery complex. It is also considered a major transit route for insurgents coming from Pakistan. Archaeologists are only beginning to find remnants of an older 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site beneath the Buddhist level including an ancient copper smelter.

The Buddhist ruins are scheduled to be destroyed at the end of December 2012.

~ snip ~
Archaeological excavation

Archaeologists believe that Mes Aynak is a major historical heritage site. It has been called "one of the most important points along the Silk Road" by French archaeologist, Philippe Marquis.[9] In addition to the Buddhist monasteries and other structures from the Buddhist era that have already been identified, Mes Aynak also holds the remains of prior civilizations likely going back as far as the 3rd century BC. Historians are particularly excited by the prospect of learning more about the early science of metallurgy and mining by exploring this site. It is known to contain coins, glass, and the tools for making these, going back thousands of years. Archaeologists have already unearthed manuscripts that may provide evidence regarding the presence of Alexander the Great's troops.

All of this historical material is in imminent danger of destruction by the mining endeavor. In response to negative reports in the press comparing the Chinese mining company to those who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a plan for minimal archaeological excavation was put in place. This plan still foresees the destruction of the site and everything still buried beneath it, but it does allow for the removal of whatever artifacts can be carried away by a small archaeological team led by DAFA, the French archaeological mission to Afghanistan.[citation needed]

Between May 2010 and July 2011 archaeologists excavated approximately 400 items; more than what the National Museum of Afghanistan housed before the war. The site covers roughly 400,000 square metres (4,300,000 sq ft), encompassing several separate monasteries and a commercial area. It appears that Buddhists who began settling the area almost two millennia ago were drawn by the availability of copper.[10] More recently, a stone statue, or stele, found in 2010 has been identified as Prince Siddhartha before he founded Buddhism and has been taken to support the idea that there was an ancient monastic cult dedicated to Siddhartha's pre-enlightenment life.[11]

In June 2012, a conference of experts in the fields of geology, mining engineering, archaeology, history and economic development met at SAIS in Washington, D.C to assess the situation in Mes Aynak. The provisional findings were tentatively encouraging: because of the length of time before mining can actually start at the site (approximately five years), it is indeed possible for collaboration between archaeologists and mining engineers to work to save Mes Aynak's cultural treasures. The site could either become a positive model for mineral extraction working to preserve cultural heritage or become an irreparable failure. However, a number of measures, that are not currently in place, must be met first. The site is still scheduled for destruction in January 2013.[


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