FAIZABAD (PAN): The northeastern Badakhshan province has large scale natural resources particularly the locality is rich in azure and ruby stones, which need to be extracted in a professional and legal way.
Badakhshan is a mountainous province bordering China, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Provincial mines department officials said as many as 16 mines had been explored so far where thousands of working had been working.
Geological study revealed the natural resources of the province were yet to be utilized in a proper way. The mines of azure stones could be found in abundant in Keranwa Menjan while ruby in Ishkashim and Khash, biruch in Garm, gold in Kohistan and Raghistan and coal in Argu district.
In its vast terrain, Badakhshan has three large, medium and small scale categories of mines where according to officials’ estimate around 3,500 employees have been working in several mines hired by different contractors.
1. Azure mines:
Azure is used in making and decoration of jewels and homes, with the stone is considered of high quality that could be found in ranges of Hundu Kush Mountains in Keranwa Manjan district of the province.
The mine of Azure in Keranwa Manjan is being extracted for the last 15 years by an Afghan private company. The mines department officials said mines were being extracted professionally and the companies involved had the relevant imported machineries and tools.
In addition, the mine industry had helped job opportunities for locals in the province. The numbers of tunnels extracted so far stood at 40 during King Zahir Shah reign while its number had surged to 60 during Mujahedeen rule when the national assets were illegally extracted.
However, the demining contract of azure has recently been awarded to a private company and its revenue goes to national exchequer.
According to article nine of the constitution of Afghanistan, natural resources and historical assets were the property of the state and its utilization would be allowed as per established rules and laws.
Azures is among the semi-precious stone discovered 4,000 years back in Badakhshan, however, its recent production had been started back in 1934.
It merits mention here that the samples of azure stone in London museum belonged to Afghanistan which was discovered 3,800 years ago.
An estimate shows that the existing amount of azure in Afghanistan reaches to 1,290 tons out of with first and second grade azures are abundant in Badakhshan.
The azure production reaches from 5 to 10 tons annually in Afghanistan which are mainly exported to foreign countries. It has in various colours such as dark blue, light blue, light green with softness and crystal shape.
Experts say azure is found in five types.
The Ministry of Mines says illegal and unprofessional extraction of azure by local groups inflicts million of afghanis loss to national kitty.
Engineer Abdul Qadir, advisor at Ministry of Mines who visited the site of azure mines in Badakhshan in 2011, said local groups had damaged the tunnels of mines after detonating explosive to explore precious stones, adding the existing azure in the mines were damaged and would not be properly used for decoration purposes.
Badakhshan Governor Shah Wali Adib expressed serious concerns about the illegal extraction of azure in the province and directed the concerned officials to immediately close all such mines.
Mines’ officials admitted extraction of mines underway in nonprofessional way.
Mohammad Akbar Khalid, an investigation officer at Ministry of Mines told Pajhwok Afghan News during decades of war, the country’s mines were extracted illegally.
Sources said illegal extraction caused large scale mess in mines of azure, which would require millions of dollar to repair the damage.
He ruled out its professional extraction until all the mines were not organized in light of country’s established laws.
Sharing border with China, Tajikistan and Pakistan, the province is more vulnerable to smuggling of its precious stones to neighboring countries.
Eng. Zakaria, former in charge of azure mine in Badakhshan, alleged warlords and commanders were openly involved in illegal extraction and smuggling of azure.
He said large scale smuggling was underway toward Pakistan while the low grade azure was being sold inside the country.
Abdul Jamil, a businessman, said contractor agreed with the government to pay 40,000 afghanis to the government after extraction of 210 kilogrammes azure.
2- Gold mines:
Gold mines are situated in Rishwi area of Khistan district and Bikadar area of Raghistan district where 85 gram of gold exists in one tons of substance of mine.
Badakhshan has obtained second grade status for having variety of natural resources; however, the precious mines of northeastern Badakhshan are being under smuggling activities for decades.
Gold can be found in Kokcha and its adjacent rivers side where 394 gram of gold exists.
Earlier, the Ministerial Commission of Mines Affairs approved plane for increasing investment in mines sectors by private companies in 2012.
The commission said investment in mines of gold in Badakhshan, copper in Balkhab and Shida in western Herat province is among its top priorities.
The ruby mines exist in Ishkashim district of Badakhshan and Jagdalak area of Sarobi and Khakraiz area of southern Kandahar province.
Diamond remains at the top of precious stones because of its hardness and wide demand. Diamond needs enhanced technical work to convert it into crystal shape. Diamond stone is yet to be discovered in Afghanistan; however, geologist claims the stone can be found in central parts of the country including Logar province and Ghorband district of central Parwan province.
In addition, the mines of coppers exist as well in Shagnan district at the costal line of Amu River, while large scale reserves of iron estimated from 40 to 45 million tons situated in Syah Drah area of Badakhshan.
In addition, the mines of Abrak stones, coal, ruby, aquamarine, calcium sulphate, stucco, marble and quartz have been recently discovered in Badakhshan.