Missing refinery deal halts landmark China-Afghan oil project

KABUL,  (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s landmark oil project has ground to a halt and most Chinese staff have left less than a year after production started because there is still no transit agreement in place to refine the oil, an employee and a government official said yesterday. The venture between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) International and its Afghan partner, Watan Oil and Gas, began producing oil in the Amu Darya basin in the north in October, providing a much needed confidence boost to investors eyeing the country’s vast oil and mineral wealth.

But equipment at the site had now been locked up and about 16 Chinese workers had left, an employee at the project said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The removal of staff was only a temporary measure to save money, according to Jalil Jumriany, policy director at the Ministry of Mines in Kabul. He said an agreement to refine the oil over the border in Uzbekistan was being negotiated.

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