An international team of archeologists and laborers are excavating an ancient Buddhist city south of Kabul, Afghanistan while they can.  The site is due to become an open pit copper mine that would result in the destruction of all of the ruins dating as far back as 300 B.C.E.

Mineral-hungry China scored a 30-year lease on the Mes Aynak complex, and some saw it as great way for Afghanistan to raise its own cash, after being largely dependent on the opium trade and donations from other nations.

But there’s a delay in getting the mine going, and the archeologists are using that window to retrieve what they can from the sprawling 3.9 square kilometer site.

Mes Aynak was an important stop on the Silk Road that connected China and India with the Mediterranean.  Ironically, it was a mining center as well as an important center of Buddhist learning with several monasteries.

Many of the Buddhist relics, statues, and frescoes have been rescued and moved, but there’s still a lot of work to do.  Archeologists would like to avoid a repeat of losing Buddhist treasures forever, as happened with the Taliban’s pointless destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001.