Afghan, U.S. Universities Partner to Develop Mining Industry
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 The Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations recently provided a grant of about $500,000 to develop a partnership between universities in the United States, Turkey and Afghanistan to train Afghan geology and engineering professors in modern mining techniques.
Using a “train-the-trainer” model, over the next six months professors from Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Nebraska and Middle East Technical University in Turkey will train seven professors from the Polytechnical University of Kabul, Shannon Gallagher, project manager for the task force’s minerals program, said today.
Teaching already has started, with the first session in Kabul wrapping up early last week, she said.
“We’re going to start the next training program in Turkey in July, and then [conduct] follow-on training programs in the U.S. and also back in Kabul as well,” Gallagher said. In between face-to-face meetings, additional sessions will take place via teleconference, she added.
“The mining industry here in Afghanistan, although rich with a lot of potential, is really nonexistent right now,” said Navy Capt. Scott Bischoff, the task force’s minerals program manager.
So, he said, working with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines, the task force is taking a two-pronged approach. First, prospective mining areas are being offered, a process that is intended to “spark a mining economy or a mining industry that will support the economy here,” Bischoff said.
The second approach is to bring Afghanistan’s own mining and geology experts up to speed on modern, sustainable mineral exploration and extraction methods through this partnership, he said.
The country is geologically rich, but due to more than 30 years of conflict, there’s also a 30-year gap in knowledge, Bischoff said.
“This effort, obviously, is an attempt to try to fill that gap and to start to provide this future industry with Afghan talent -- where they won't have to rely on outside entities to support the industry,” he said.
The program concentrates on professors from Kabul Polytechnic’s faculty of Geology and Mines, Gallagher said. Professors from Nebraska and Missouri will focus on seven courses and begin developing curricula and professional development programs, she said.
“The courses … will incorporate modern techniques regarding social and environmental concepts in the mining, engineering and geology field,” she said. The curriculum will be modeled on teaching methods and curricula used at the American professors’ own universities, “which emphasize a modern and clean mining industry,” Gallagher noted. “TFBSO encourages responsible development of Afghanistan's rich mineral wealth.”
The Afghan professors who were selected have a “commitment to Kabul Polytechnic and want to remain in the geology program for a long time,” Gallagher said.
They will then train their fellow faculty as well as students, and the hope is that through these efforts, the universities will form a relationship that will outlast the period of the grant, Gallagher noted.
“Even though the grant is six months, the train-the-trainer design of the program is meant to create a long-term mining and geology program at KPU. … The students that are going to be receiving this knowledge are going to be going out into the sectors in Afghanistan -- the Afghanistan Geological Survey, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and other mining companies that are going to be sprouting up in Afghanistan, so the long-term impact is substantial,” she said.
Sustainability of a current and up-to-date series of curricula is a key goal of the program, Bischoff said. “We've got a cadre of motivated, qualified individuals at Kabul Polytechnic that will keep this thing going, in our opinion, long after we're gone.”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)