SAVING MES AYNAK follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in Afghanistan from imminent demolition. A Chinese state-owned mining company is closing in on the ancient site, eager to harvest $100 billion dollars worth of copper buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins. Only 10% of Mes Aynak has been excavated, though, and some believe future discoveries at the site have the potential to redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself.
China is investing nearly three billion dollars in Afghanistan's untapped copper reserve, the second largest in the world worth an estimated $100 billion. The cash-strapped government of Afghanistan signed away the rights to this deposit with little oversight. The Chinese government-owned company plans to mine the copper using an open-pit method, the cheapest, most environmentally destructive style of mining. By doing so, the archaeology site, as well as the entire mountain range, will be completely demolished.SAVING MES AYNAK examines the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity through the lens of the Afghan archaeologists and local villagers who work and live near Mes Aynak. Qadir Temori and his fellow Afghan archaeologists face what seems an impossible battle against the Chinese, the Taliban and local politics to save their cultural heritage from likely erasure.