KABUL (Pajhwok): Many Afghans believe the country’s vast mineral wealth continues to be exploited by a limited number of individuals in an unprofessional way. With income from it ending up in private pockets, illegal mining has been a dag on the national exchequer.
Pajhwok Afghan News spoke to a number of residents of different provinces on the issue. Here are some of the views of locals on how the opulent sector should be developed and regulated:
Mohammad Jafar Kargar, a worker at the Karkar coalmine in northern Baghlan province, says some of his fellows have lost their lives to coal excavation. The private sector company symbolically compensated their families. Some victims’ relatives were given 30,000 to 10,000 afghanis.
Zamin Ali, another coalmine worker, said: “We are working here to feed our families. It is the duty of the government to implement labour laws and bind the companies to protect our rights.”
Najibullah, 45, is an inhabitant of Abkhorak village of northern Samangan province. He says earlier they had to travel to others provinces for work but now he is employed at the Aab Khorak coalmine along with 150 others.
Gulabuddin, 52, belongs to the Madrak village of Roab district. He views the location of the coalmine close to his village as a blessing in disguise from Allah. But in the same breath he blasts the government for not developing the area at a time when it is extremely rich in natural reserves.
He complains the government has only constructed a school and a clinic in the area during the last 12 years. In addition, the existence of coal reserves in the Dara-i-Sauf district could also bolster national revenue and bring economic prosperity to hundreds of families.
Abdul Rahim, a dweller of Qashqari district, is satisfied with the launch of excavation work on the crude oil reserves there. He says security has improved after the Chinese company started work on the project. He appreciates the efforts of security forces to improve law and order in Qashqari and surrounding areas.
Sadruddin, a resident of the Asiabad village of Sar-i-Pul City, the provincial capital, says the construction of the road passing through his village has spurred economic activity.
The road was constructed by a Chinese company for transferring crude oil from the site. However, he says locals are suffering from environmental pollution and other health hazards because of crude oil hauling.
He complains they are not being given the benefits promised by the government. Noise of heavy trucks and pollution has been a nuisance to the locals.
Mohiuddin, a resident of the Khash district of Northeastern Badakhshan province, is working at a ruby mine. He claims the rubies are their property and they sell them after excavation.
Azizullah, coming from Jurm district, says the area is blessed with huge tourmaline reserves and locals excavate and sell the gems.
Ahmad Shah, hailing from the Hesarak locality of Tanai district, says people are eking out their livelihoods by working at the chromite mine. “I have excavated 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes of chromite so far,” says Haji Kamil Khan, a resident of Dwa Manda district.
The government should help generate job opportunities to stop illegal mining, he suggests, explaining the people have no option but to excavate and smuggle the resource to Pakistan.
Sabir, coming from Sherzad district, confirms unauthorised mining is underway and the tragedy is that locals do not get any benefit. The areas where natural resources exist are still deprived of clean drinking water, basic health facilities and quality food.
If the precious stones of Sherzad district are professionally excavated, more workers would benefit and local economy flourish, he believes.
Amanullah Inayat Rahman, a former provincial council member, is of the view that illegal excavation benefits only a handful of individuals. He claims the poor remain deprived of the profit from the reserves.
Excavation of natural resources in a regulated way will banish poverty and improve economic condition of residents, he thinks. Mining in a professional way could not be launched until improvement of security, he concludes.