Transcript of speech given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Afghan Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani

Transcript of speech given by David Cameron and the Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani on mining of precious metals in Afghanistan.

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The Rt Hon David Cameron

Prime Minister

Good evening.  Good evening and welcome everyone, and a very warm welcome to number 10 Downing Street.  I’m absolutely delighted to be standing here with Minister Shahrani from the Afghan government.  I’m delighted to host this evening.  I think this is a really important moment for Britain and for Afghanistan, and you’re all very welcome here tonight.

I really just wanted to say three things to you before handing over to the minister.  The first is I care passionately about the future of Afghanistan.  Britain has, I think, played a huge and honourable role in trying to do everything we can to give Afghanistan the chance of stability and security, and to make sure that it never again is a haven of terror.

But in my passion for Afghanistan, I know that the real long-term answer for Afghanistan is not simply security and stability and peace with its neighbours, but the real answer for Afghanistan is prosperity and growth and jobs and investment and wealth.  That is absolutely key to the future of your country.

And that leads me to my second point, which is the scale of the opportunity about what we’re talking about, in terms of the extractive industries of mining of precious metals, is absolutely immense in the case of Afghanistan.  The last time I looked I think your GDP is some $17 billion.  The extent of the minerals under your soil are worth something like $3 trillion.  So this is an enormous opportunity which, if it can be got right, can be an extraordinary blessing for Afghanistan.

And that is I think the word to think about tonight, because Afghanistan has been cursed in so many ways in recent years: the horrors of civil war; the horrors of Soviet occupation; the huge problems of terrorism; all of the destruction that took place in the years when, mistakenly, other countries - including ours – turned their back on Afghanistan.  Those have indeed been curses for your country, but your country is blessed with this extraordinary mineral wealth, and it is an immense opportunity that we’re here to discuss tonight.

And that leads to my third point, is that we must do everything we can to make sure this mineral wealth is a blessing for your country and not a curse.  When you look around the world, you can see countries who’ve had extraordinary wealth through minerals, but where it has turned out to be a disaster for that country.  We’ve seen that in countries like Liberia, countries in Africa, and further afield.  But we’ve also seen countries that have mineral wealth who’ve made an enormous amount of that mineral wealth, and genuinely transformed their economies, their societies and their countries.  Think of Chile.  Think of Norway.  Think of the enormous wealth that’s been used to good end.

And alongside my passion for Afghanistan and for helping your country is a belief that we are on the brink in our world of really getting this right, of having far more transparency, far more honesty in how we deal with the extractive industries.  And it is a theme of my G8 presidency this year to make sure that we push that agenda as far and as fast as we can.

And in closing, all I want to say, Minister, is that Britain will help you every step of the way.  And so I can tell you tonight that there will be another £10 million DFID programme of support for the Ministry of Mines.  I think DFID has an excellent record of helping to build the capacity in your department.  Secondly, we will have a dedicated UK Trade and Investment regional presence based both in Kabul and also in Dubai, where we hope we can play a key role in linking up the investment that is necessary.  And the third thing is that Michael Wareing, who’s done a fantastic job working with you in Afghanistan, is going to continue as an international investment advisor, I hope helping you.

Minister, it’s great to have you here.  In an earlier life you were a lecturer at Richmond College and a lecturer in Economics, in Finance, in Banking and Investment -  so you’re perfectly placed to deliver in this job that you have, which is so important to your country, a country that we care about so much.  And I think if we get this right, it can be genuinely transformative for Afghanistan and so tonight is important; this conference matters, what you’re doing matters and we’re pleased to stand with you and help in any way we can.  Thank you.

Wahidullah Shahrani

Thank you very much honourable Prime Minister and Secretary of State for International Development.  Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it has been a pleasure to be here at number 10 Downing Street and it’s a clear illustration of your commitment to Afghanistan – the commitment of the British people towards the prosperity, development and peace in Afghanistan.  And my special thanks to the honourable Prime Minister for his special attention to improve the situation in Afghanistan and all the support that we have received from the British government; in the last ten or 11 years, they have been one of the largest contributors in spite of so many challenges in Afghanistan.  Whatever we have achieved, the achievement has been enormous and in all those achievements the role which has been played and the contributions which have been made by the British government through various departments such as the Department of International Development - that has been really significant.

Mr Prime Minister, you are absolutely right that Afghanistan has got huge potential for the mineral resources in oil and gas, and based on the recent information that we have from a number of the geological service institutions, the potential is huge, we have got a very complex geology and we have got enormous deposits of metals - precious metals, rare earths, oil and gas and other kinds of commodities.  Three years ago we began our journey to develop these resources with the very active support of the international community in which the support from DFID was highly significant to improve the regulatory and procedural environment under which we could get more and more investment from the global investors.  I am glad to report that to you that we have been benefiting from the location and position of London as a global hub for the investors as well as the world financial centre.  And whatever deposits that I put on tender - and we made the announcement here in London on different occasions -  now we are getting a very good response from the regional investors as well as from the global investors.  And I’m again glad to announce that with the conclusion of a number of the tenders, in the next few weeks we are going to put some additional deposits of iron ore, copper, gold, lithium and oil and gas on tender, and I would strongly urge the London-based investors to grab these opportunities.

We are very much committed to transparency and accountability in managing these resources, and our commitment to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - publishing all the contracts, introducing the international good practices, having the international monitors to make sure the deals are transparent and they have been conducted in a very solid and smooth manner.  These are all the efforts that we have put to make sure that we’ll avoid the resource curse; Afghanistan has been blessed in the form of the natural resources that would be used for the sustainable development of our people in the long term.  And I was very much delighted by your announcement of £10 million for the next phase of the support from DFID to the Ministry of Mines in helping the Ministry to enhance its capabilities for the effective management of this very important sector.

And again, my special thanks to you and to the Director General - to the CEO of UKTI for appointing a special team which will be trying to organise more investment from London-based investors to Afghanistan.  And I’m sure that, if everything goes well, with your support and with the support of potential investors, in the next five to ten years Afghanistan will be in a position to stand on its own feet and your contribution will be highly significant to the sustainability of our development in the long term.  Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. 

Published 7 March 2013