A gold-plated seated Buddha overlooks the China Metallurgical Group Corporation mine. Photo: Brent Huffman
As of November 28th, more than 60,000 people had signed an online petition to save Mes Aynak, a 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery complex that also happens to be home to one of the world’s largest copper deposits. Today, archaeologists are working furiously to salvage as much of the 100-acre site as possible, while activists fight to prevent its demolition by a Chinese government-owned mining company at the end of 2012.
The petition, addressed to Afghan President Hamid Karzi, aims to save the site “from needless destruction while preventing irreversible environmental harm to Kabul watershed and the Afghan people.” Created by Matin Wasei, an Amsterdam-based engineer and member of the GHN Community, the petition acknowledges Afghanistan’s need for revenue generation but weighs it against the value of irreplaceable cultural heritage, along with the threat of environmental catastrophe.
“We insist that the Mes Aynak mining project be conducted in accordance with international standards in a transparent manner that will safeguard public health, and ensure maximum protection for cultural heritage and the environment,” the petition states. “International standards include publication of the final mining plan, the final, approved environmental impact plan, and the consensus advisory of archaeologists to optimize restoration of the site.
“We strongly urge the Afghan government to set up a coordinating body composed of government and mining officials, neutral experts in the fields of environmental safety, archaeology and geology, and representatives of the local population and civil society to oversee the implementation of International standards. This body shall ensure that the mining plan is followed throughout the entire life of the mine.”
Brent Huffman interviews lead Afghan archaeologist Abdul Qadeer Temore. Photo: Frank Petrella
Meanwhile, filmmaker Brent Huffman is raising money via Kickstarter, a crowd funding website for creative projects, to support the production of his documentary The Buddhas of Mes Aynak. The film, which has been partly funded by GHF, follows the French and Afghan archaeologists who are working to document Mes Aynak before it is destroyed, and examines the cultural and historical significance of the complex, showing what life was like for the Buddhist monks and nuns who lived, worked and worshipped there.
With two weeks to go, Huffman needs less than $2,000 to reach his goal of $30,000, which he says he will use to “finish production and post production of the film (the only visual record of the site), raise international awareness, and donate 10% of funds to Afghan archaeologists at Mes Aynak to buy computers and cameras to better do rescue archaeology.”
“There is a magic to Mes Aynak, an ability to draw in people from around the world who will risk their lives to save it,” Huffman wrote in an op-ed for CNN earlier this year. “I fell in love with this ancient site and will do everything in my power to try to help save it.”
Click here to learn more about “The Buddhas of Mes Aynak” on Facebook
Click here to join the “Mes Aynak, Afghanistan” group in the GHN Community to help raise awareness of threats to this ancient Buddhist settlement, and to discuss solutions for its long-term preservation
Click here to explore Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, on Global Heritage Network (GHN)