Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Private security is a threat to mining sector

The aid fatigue among the international donors in Afghanistan has led to overdrive to invite private investment in the mining sector. Mining sector in Afghanistan may attract private security companies to enter the realm.The international military intervention in Afghanistan led to massive inflow of easy money which lured many local and foreign companies to provide security services. The NATO withdrawal will leave these companies with huge assets that they will seek to employ for profit making. Among the most lucrative sectors is mining.

Members of a private Blackwater security force scan Bagdhad from the air… (Baghdad/Getty/AFP/Getty)

The efforts to reduce the presence of state from the economic activities and the extension of private investors to commercialize the social welfare activities of state have been the hallmark of the world in the past two decades.Private businesses have sufficiently been incentivized to successfully argue for withdrawal of state from its former spheres of monopoly. However, the quest to reduce state influence may work in developed and transparent states but not in countries like Afghanistan that has weak state institutions and weak regulatory and oversight capacity within those institutions.

Private security companies coming to the mining sector carries a major risk. Weeda Mehran an Afghan scholar pursuing PhD in Cambridge University says using these companies for the mining sector has serious repercussions. The private security companies may be associated with the mining companies and thus threaten the local citizens if they air their concerns. Secondly, they may hinder oversight of the mining operations by the state agencies.
There has been abuse of local communities by private security companies in Africa. There are also reports of rapes and other form of abuses in Gold mines.  There are numerous other instances of violation of rights of people across the developing countries.

The government of Afghanistan in general and the Ministry of Mines in particular must heed to this and define their parameters. Security must be provided through the state security agencies not through private security companies. Allowing private companies to provide protection to mining operations would mean we have not learnt our lessons from Africa. This can lead to serious consequences and resource curse if not checked at the very beginning.

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