In 2007, the Afghan government sold the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) a 30-year lease to develop the Mes Aynak deposit for $3 billion dollars. Beside its proximity to archeological artifacts, the deposit is also located over the ground table that provides drinking water to Kabul's 3 million residents. According to a petition
protesting the mine on Change.org, an international network of activists,
the MCC has not released any environmental impact statement or plan to minimize contamination of the water supply.
Huffman says he worries the mine will "create an enormous toxic crater" of pollutants from the copper excavation. "My fear is that Mes Aynak will set a precedent, that this is how mineral excavation...will be done in the future. Cheaply with permanent damage to cultural heritage and the environment."
Above, an Afghan worker walks at the site of an ancient monastery discovered in Mes Aynak on Nov. 23, 2010. "We are helpless," Akbar Khan, a villager from nearby town Adam Kaley told Huffman. "We do not have the means to fight for our rights. When people ask for their rights the government comes to coerce them, beat them, humiliate them and take their property. We are forced to fight the state with violence."
Although the inhabitants of Mes Anyak were unhappy about moving, many told Huffman they were neither given a choice nor reimbursed. "These villages were everything to us," another man said. "Our families have lived off this land for hundreds of years and now we are begging in the streets."