Mayer Brown, Heenan Blaikie land Afghan mining mandates

US firm Mayer Brown and Canadian outfit Heenan Blaikie have been appointed to a panel advising the Afghanistan government on the development of its ­hugely lucrative mining industry, which is estimated to have a potential value of $3tr (£1.85tr).

The advisory group, which also includes consulting firm SRK Consulting, is sponsored by the US Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business & Stability ­Operations (TFBSO).

The group is charged with designing and implementing a transparent ­tender process on behalf of the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines as it looks to ­capitalise on the country’s vast but largely untapped mineral resources, which include gold, copper, iron ore and lithium.

Mayer Brown will focus on the development of the legislative and regulatory framework, while Heenan Blaikie partner Steve Vaughan will lead a team concentrating on the government’s strategic direction.

Mayer Brown’s team is being led by London-based partner Ian Coles, who also heads the firm’s global ­mining and minerals ­practice and sits on the ­partnership board.

Coles and his team have worked on mining projects in close to 50 countries across the globe, including the first producing mine in Eritrea, the Voskhod Chrome project in Kazakhstan and the gold and silver mines in Kupol, ­Russia. Coles has also worked on the negotiation of ­government-sponsored ­mining agreements in Asia and Africa.

“Afghanistan’s a country with incredible natural resources,” said Coles. “Unlocking these resources is key to the development of economic stability and ­sovereignty in that country.

“The challenges involved in that process are obviously substantial. We’re honoured to have been selected to lead the team in addressing the legal issues surrounding the process.”

The news comes after the Afghanistan Geological Service, the US Geological Survey and the TFBSO spent a year documenting and mapping the country’s ­mineral wealth, creating one of the most extensive ­mineral datasets ever compiled for a single country.