Foreign Policy: Golden Buddha, Hidden Copper

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Above, an Afghan archaeologist drapes a fabric across the remains of Buddha statues discovered inside an ancient monastery in Mes Aynak on Nov. 23, 2010. i i

Above, an Afghan archaeologist drapes a fabric across the remains of Buddha statues discovered inside an ancient monastery in Mes Aynak on Nov. 23, 2010. Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images
Above, an Afghan archaeologist drapes a fabric across the remains of Buddha statues discovered inside an ancient monastery in Mes Aynak on Nov. 23, 2010.

Above, an Afghan archaeologist drapes a fabric across the remains of Buddha statues discovered inside an ancient monastery in Mes Aynak on Nov. 23, 2010.

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

Lois Parshley is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

Mes Aynak, in Afghanistan's Logar Province, boasts one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world. But it is also home to vast archeological ruins, including 5th century Buddhist monasteries and even older Bronze Age settlements. Preservationists — working furiously to excavate the nearby ruins before they are buried under mining rubble — have urged restraint in developing the copper deposits. But those focused on Afghanistan's economic development have urged the country to move full speed ahead, citing the dire need for the $1 trillion in revenue that the mine could bring to the impoverished country. Is the potential for economic growth worth more than the loss of cultural heritage?

Professor Brent E. Huffman, a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University who has been making a film at Mes Aynak, says there is little hope that much will be saved when the mining begins in earnest. Here, we take a an inside look at the 2,000 year-old Buddhas, temples, and other relics that could soon be destroyed.

You can see the rest of this slideshow at ForiegnPolicy.com.

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