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Conflict minerals bleed the exchequer.

The government loses revenue worth 30 million USD to illegal mining that profits the Taleban.

Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries Abdul Bari Rahman calculates 80 percent of mining including of semi-precious and precious stones, is lost to the government.

Lapis lazuli

The brilliant blue semi-precious stone from Badakhshan province is among the world's finest. An estimated one tonne is illegally mined every day. Abdul Basheer Samim, head of the provincial council, says the mines, which belong to the government, are now under the control of "irresponsible armed individuals". "The government has taken no action," he adds.

Smuggled precious stones are sold in the international market as stones from other countries in the regions, says Acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum Ghezal Habibyar.

Samim thinks the illegal lapis market is financing the rise of the Taleban in the province. "They (Taleban) have been able to advance their activities in the area," he claims.

Mohammad Akbar Anwari, chief of the mines department, says lapis mines are located in Keran Menjan district. "Armed individuals take the lapis via Panjsher province to international markets," he says.

A new report by Global Witness, a London-based watchdog group, published on June 6, estimates the government has lost at least 17 million USD in revenue from lapis lazuli in 2014, and 10 million USD in 2015. It has urged the government to regain control of the mines in Keran Menjan. Lapis should be classified as a "conflict mineral" -- a mineral fueling conflict.

Marble

Authorities in Helmand province say marble is extracted illegally from 100 mines in the province. Last month, at a meeting held by the department of borders and tribes, head Ahmad Naweed announced the most vulnerable are mines in Disho, along the border with Pakistan, which is under the control of Taleban. "The mines need attention of government authorities," he appealed.

Habibullah Haqparst, head of the provincial mines department, says only six companies have permission to mine; the rest are illegal. "They smuggle the marble to Pakistan," he alleges.

The department has no powers to stop the illegal extraction. "We have reported these type of problems to the centre (Kabul)," he says. "(It is for) security agencies and the ministry to take a joint decision."

Helmand Governor Hayatullah Hayat admits there is a problem. The governor's office plans to prevent the illegal mining and has asked the public for support.

Mohammad Karim Atal, head of the provincial council, calculates that 80 percent of the revenue from marble goes to Taleban; the rest is divided between the people and the government. "None of the government departments have done anything about illegal extraction of precious stones ... Worst of all many high ranking government authorities are involved in illegal digging," he says.

Lal Mohammad Kargar, head of a marble-processing factory, says Afghanistan has the capacity to cut and polish only half the stones that are mined. "If the mines were monitored well, the ground would be prepared for many Afghan traders to establish factories privately and both they and the government would profit," he says.

Marble from Afghanistan is processed in Karachi and exported to other countries as marble from Pakistan. One tonne of marble sells for 25,000 Afs (365 USD) in the domestic market. There are 16 types of minerals in Helmand but only marble is being extracted.

Chromite and gold

Members of the Ghazni provincial council blame the armed opponents of the government for illegal mining. Khalilullah Hotak, head of a tribal council called Nejat (salvation) says engineers from across the border are involved. Even Members of Parliament (MP) are involved, he claims.

He says that Taleban provide security and Pakistani engineers and labour are involved in extraction and smuggling into Pakistan.

"(The mines) are a milch cow. The inefficient authorities see all the cases with open eyes but do nothing," he alleges.

Amanullah Kamrni, a member of the Ghazni provincial council, says the Taleban get up to 400,000 Pak rupees (3,830 USD) from each truck crossing the border. Abdul Jamae Jamae, a deputy speaker in the council, says Pakistani engineers in Zana Khan district are digging up chromite for some months now. He alleges that five Mazda truck-loads of chromite were taken to Pakistan via Logar province. [beaucoup moins que]These mines are under the control of armed opponents who have permitted Pakistanis to do the digging," he adds.

Hasan Reza Yusufi, yet another member of the provincial council, says chromite has for months been extracted by Pakistani engineers and smuggled to Pakistan. Yusufi says the mines of chromite are located in Pordal and Mastkhil areas of Zana Khan district, which is outside the government's control.

Sayed Ahmadullah Hakimi, chief of the petroleum department in Ghazni province, denies the charges. No mining has taken place in the province, he states. Six years ago chromite was extracted in Zana Khan district, but that was stopped by because of the low quality of the mineral. There are mines of chromite, lithium, lime and gold also in the province. Lithium and lime deposits have been found in Nawar district; gold mines in Maqour; and, chromite in Zana Khan district.

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Publication:Killid Weekly
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 14, 2016
Words:870
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