Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 1st, 2017

Illegal Extraction of Mineral Resources Continue

As the issue of insecurity is getting serious within different parts of the country; it is generating many other problems as well. It is actually challenging the writ of the government and its control. The natural resources of the country that should be under the control of the government institutions and authorities and should benefit all the people of Afghanistan, instead, fuel terrorism and insurgency as illegal extraction of the resources continue in different forms. Mineral resources in Afghanistan are abundant and can prove to be a support for the overall economic system but it does not seem to be happening as the terrorists make use of them before government institutions can intervene.

In a recently stated concern, Badakhshan’s mining and petroleum department highlighted the illegal extraction of gold and lapis lazuli by insurgents in the province. Badakhshan’s mining director Mohammad Akbar Anwari has revealed that that terrorists and groups of armed men have accelerated the extraction of gold from mines in Raghistan district and lapis in Karan-o-Manjan districts. Anwari has said that after lapis mines, the Raghistan district’s gold mines are the second biggest source of income for the Taliban, who are using the money to finance and equip themselves to fight security forces. If government does not free these mines this winter then it will be difficult to do so in summer.

This is really a tragic situation. The resources that can benefit the people of the province and support them financially in different ways and even provide the people jobs, are being used by insurgents to bring destruction to the province. Unfortunately, there is no serious attention being given to the situation, though the problem was highlighted last year as well. In fact, the tragedy is that the same attitude is adopted towards the whole mining sector.

The mining sector, if nourished appropriately, can build an optimism to uplift Afghan economy to a huge extent. Many years of uncertainty and warfare have influenced Afghan economy damagingly. The involvement of international community in Afghanistan spawned some hopes that Afghanistan would stand on its own in near future. Nevertheless, it still needs to learn to live on its own. The only way it can do this is to rely on its own resources and among them the mining sector can, without a tinge of doubt, play an incredible role.

As per the statistical data by United States, Afghanistan may possess mineral deposits worthy of $1 trillion, which is huge and comprise of important minerals like gold, iron ore, uranium and precious stones including lapis lazuli and emeralds. Excavating all these mineral resources and processing them so that they are ready for use or export would certainly entail the need of large factories and a large number of skilled human resource.  

There is no doubt in the fact that country’s rich mining sector could guarantee supporting each and every sector of the country during the next 20 years but a capable and honest administration is needed to guard the sector. It is absolutely essential that the legislative and administrative mechanisms in the country must endeavor to frame and follow the laws and policies that are for the welfare of the country and that encompass the consultations and instruction from the technical and professional individuals and groups.
The fact remains that the natural resources of the country have yet to be excavated and there have not been even rudimentary work done in this connection. So, everything has to be initiated right from the beginning. Optimistic expectations in this regard have to be backed properly by determined and practical measures; otherwise intention may end up in smoke.

At the same time, government should take notice that the security situation in the country has been going through a deteriorating trend. The terrorism seems to be rising in some of the most important parts of the country and the security situation still remains a question mark. Threatened by insecurity major projects regarding the mining sector have been postponed. The ones that have been started are lagging behind their schedule. The international investors are losing their interest as they do not feel that their investment would bring fruit in such uncertain circumstances. In such circumstances, development of a strong mining sector seems a difficult task. The mining sector is not just about digging the minerals out of the earth. It includes a complete development of an infrastructure. It involves complicated processes, machinery and latest technology.

Definitely, generations of instability have incapacitated Afghanistan to work on these resources but at the same time it would require, at least a generation if not generations of stability to bring these resources in use. It is not impossible; neither there should be pessimism in this regard. The important point is to remind the people of Afghanistan and most importantly the Afghan authorities to analyze the socio-political and economic conditions rationally and try to comprehend the challenges appropriately. After the challenges are understood appropriately, measures can be carried out to find out proper solution of the challenges. However, on immediate basis, there should be efforts to stop the mining of lapis lazuli and gold in Badakhshan and bring them under the control of the government and then make efforts to benefit from it as much as possible so that they can used for the people as a whole.