Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Illegal Mining Looms Large

The militant fighters, mainly the Taliban, have stepped up their efforts for engaging in illegal mining to keep the machine of war running. Their involvement illegal mining and smuggling Afghanistan’s precious stone outside the country is a great cause for concern.
Whenever the Taliban militants suffer from lack of financing and economic challenges, they resort to illegal activities such as illegal mining and establishing checkpoints on the roads and highways in restive provinces to collect taxes from truck drivers. They also force local farmers to pay taxes to them, which will support the militants economically but will put an adverse effect on local economy.
The militants, including the Taliban, target staff of ministry of mines and petroleum simply to restrict the government’s activities in mining. For example, the Taliban carried out a suicide attack on employees of ministry of mines and petroleum in March 2017, which killed 38 people, mostly employees, and wounded dozens more.
Last month, a suicide bomber blew himself near a minibus carrying employees of the ministry of mines and petroleum, killing five women and a child. The self-styled Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
The two attacks targeting employees of the ministry of mines and petroleum are indicative of the militants’ involvement in illegal mining. Mining workers are also being killed by militants in some provinces.
Afghan businessmen claim the price of Afghan lapis lazuli has dropped tremendously in local markets in the wake of being mined illegally.
In its 2016 report, Global Witness, an international media monitoring organization, claimed that a number of people, including tribal elders and political figures, were involved in illegal extraction of lapis lazuli. Its statistics showed that over 20 tons of lapis lazuli had been extracted from deposits in Keran Wa Manjan district of Badakhshan each day. And during this period, over 7,500 tons of lapis lazuli worth $125 million had been smuggled outside Afghanistan.
The figures also showed that from the amount, $20 million went to the account of illegal armed groups.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have increased the number of their checkpoints on roads in restive provinces to collect taxes.
If this trend continues, the Taliban militants are unlikely to lay down their arms. The militants seem to make lucrative business through the barrel of gun. That is, they are running Mafia-like businesses simply to earn money for their self-interests. A large number of militants, who are involved in such illegal profit-making activities, do not care about ideology. They kill individuals to make money.
Rumors say every once in a while that Mafia members are also involved in the conflict in Afghanistan. They work in tandem with the Taliban in smuggling Afghanistan’s precious stones and narcotic drug to continue their business. Hence, a peaceful Afghanistan, where law holds strong sway, will pose serious threat to their interests.
It should be noted that targeting mine workers or employees of the ministry of mines and petroleum will be the worst possible message to domestic and foreign investors.
To mitigate militancy, the government has to cut the financial support of the militants through preserving the country’s mineral resources and precious stones. In other words, the government should put economic pressure on the militants. It has to secure the deposits and ensure the security of mine workers.
The government should intensify its attacks against the militants’ checkpoints, which can be easily targeted by airstrikes. Indeed, if this trend continues, the militants will grow stronger. On the contrary, locals and farmers, who pay taxes to the Taliban under duress, will suffer from abject poverty. Hence, they expect the government to lift the burden of illegal taxes from their shoulder.
The government should take reports about illegal mining very serious and prosecute the local perpetrators. In the past, Afghan MPs also claimed that some local strongmen had been involved in illegal mining, but no serious action was taken. It is believed that if locals do not support the illegal miners, illegal mining would not take place to such a large extent.
In addition to keeping the machine of war running, illegal mining will also put a highly adverse effect on the country’s economy. It will reduce the price of Afghanistan’s precious stones, decrease the sources, and pave the ground for lawlessness.
It is highly regrettable to see that Afghanistan is in the grip of poverty, but its mineral resources are extracted illegally and smuggled. Worst of all, the money coming from the illegal mining is used against the country and nation. Thus, a strong measure must be taken in a very near future to stop illegal mining, which will necessary lead to the financial recession of the militant fighters.