Ancient relics will delay huge Afghan copper mine
* Afghan mining minister says Aynak copper mine delayed
* MCC president says committed to preserving ancient relics
By Michelle Nichols
KABUL, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Safeguarding ancient Buddhist relics at a huge Chinese-run copper mine in Afghanistan could take three years and delay the country's biggest foreign investment project, the Afghan mining minister said on Sunday.
Archaeologists recently uncovered Buddhist remains at Aynak mine southwest of Kabul, including a temple, stupas, frescoes and statues several metres high, some more than 15 centuries old.
The site is one of the world's major copper ore bodies with proven reserves of 9 million tonnes of copper. The project by Metallurgical Corp of China Ltd (MCC) there is forecast to earn government coffers up to $400 million annually.
The discoveries "will delay the implementation of the project for a while, but that is something that we can afford," Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani told Reuters after a working group meeting of the MCC, the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA), the United Nations and U.S. forces.
"Some of the mining operations will be slowed down, but (MCC) are aware of their responsibility and as soon as they get clearance from our archaeologists then they will go ahead with the mining," he said. Continued...