LASHKARGAH (PAN): The southern Helmand has around 16 different mines of precious and semi-precious stones but growing lawlessness has provided a renewed impetus to its illegal excavation and smuggling, an official said.
Esmatullah Shams, provincial mines department head, said the province was extremely rich in natural resources such as uranium, magnate, carbonate, stucco, zing, plumbum, quicksilver, alabaster and others.
If properly excavated, the natural reservoirs of the province would considerably bolster the national economy, he added.
“The smuggling of alabaster cannot be halted despite the fact that the contract for its extraction has been awarded to five different companies. Growing insecurity is fueling illegal demining and smuggling of precious mines materials,” he informed.
He said Banadar area of the province had been used to smuggle precious stones to Pakistan and the absence of security forces in the area had provided a level playing field to the smugglers and illegal excavation by certain groups.
Four mines each of uranium, magnetite, apatite and carbonate exist in Khanashin, a district of Helmand which is located 160 kilometres south of provincial capital Lashkargah and bordering Pakistan, he noted.
Similarly, alabaster, plumbum, zings and mines of alkaline earth metal exists in Dishu, another border district of the province, which is 215 kilometres to the south of Lashkargah.
He said the existence of mines had already been verified while the extraction contract of alabaster had been awarded to some companies while were busy digging out mines in Nawzad, Sangin, Kajaki, Musa Kala and Ashe localities.
The above mentioned districts have abundant of mines such as stucco, plumbum, quicksilver, gold, zinc, copper and others, the demining of which need proper plan in a professional and legal way, he noted.
He said the province had several mines of natural resources comparing to other provinces and was considered natural resources.
The provincial mines department intends to start extraction of natural resources in Helmand that’s why five different companies have been awarded the contracts for alabaster extraction, he informed.
He underlined greater investment and enhanced security and law and order were some of the direly needed steps to ensure demining of natural resources in the province.
“Measures are needed to stop smuggling and illegal extraction of mines which harm the overall revenue of the country,” he urged.
Lal Mohammad, director of alabaster company, said the government did not take stringent measures for the development of mines industry in Helmand, adding its extraction in a professional way and halting its smuggling would woo more investment in demining sector.
Maj. Gen. Sultan Mahmood, commander of eastern zone, told Pajhwok Afghan News the security of mines did not come within the sphere of his forces’ responsibility, adding that his forces rarely conducting patrol in the area.
Col. Ghafar Khan, public safety police chief of Kashkargha city, said he had no directives to protect mines, adding he had no more information on the subject.
Wishing not to be named, an official said the provincial mines department was in connivance with smugglers and groups regarding all irregularities and corruption in the mine sectors.
Officials of an alabaster company alleged Pakistanis had been smuggling mines-laden truck of alabaster while authorities did not take step to check the illegal activities.