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Most mining companies found violating laws, regulations

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KABUL (Pajhwok): Most mining companies have yet to keep their pledges to protect environment and deliver social services for people living close to the mining areas, experts said.

According to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, around 300 contracts had been awarded to various companies but most of them seemed lack in provision of social services and protecting environment. 

Mines’ experts and people living close to the mines’ areas complained that non-implementation of the established mines regulations were in direct contravention of country’s laws.

In his chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, Ibrahim Jaffari, a mining sector expert, said: “Most of the contracts awarded to companies are unfortunately in contravention to the mines law and environment.”

He said protecting the environment, provision of social services, development activities and hiring people of the area as labourers were among commitments that were yet to be followed by contractors.

Jafari said the ministry concerned should make companies bound to follow established rules and regulations, which would lure more investment.  

Pointing toward article 77 of mining law, he said: “Those got mining licenses should keep their activities after they get letters from the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA).”

As per law, NEPA reserved the right to approve or disapprove environmental plans, Jafari said. “NEPA should be authorized to review terms of contracts to fine or introduce the violator of the law to the attorney,” he stressed.

In foreign countries, similar agencies of environmental protection were given more power, which could amend or reject the contracts. In some instances, they stop mega mining projects in the wake of environmental problems.

He said: “NEPA is facing lack of resources, powers and capacity, which lead the agency to poor supervision.”

About the use of chemical substances in exploiting natural resources, he said the ministry concerned was unable to make public a policy for use of similar materials and warding off its negative impact on environment.

But NEPA dismissed views of the mining sector’s analyst, saying that its main and local offices were supervising activities of mining companies. 

JavedNoorani, another mining sector expert, acknowledged each mine possessed ecological affect at the time of extraction.

Noorani said Afghanistan’s environmental protection law was very comprehensive, requiring mining firms for timely conclusion of environmental studies and submit the findings to relevant organs.

He confirmed most of mining contracts were facing problems and no arrangements had been put in place for ecological affect.

Ghor Cement Factory, gold mines of Qarazaghan, Noraba and Samti, salt mine of TaqchaKhana, coal mines of Chinarak and Sabzak were registered among mines leaving negative impact on environment.  

With the ministry of mines and petroleum had little power to monitor environmental impact of mines, Noorani suggested to further authorize the NEPA. 

Social and economic structures are important parts of mining contracts but most of the firms yet to implement their commitments in this regard. 

The geologist said mega and small mine contracts involved terms of providing social services, with each firms pledged to use up to $ 200,000 for building schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for people living close to the mine. But “most of the firms yet to keep their pledges,” he complained.

Referring to a company mining in Qarazaghan gold mine in Baghlan province that pledged to use $ 50,000 for construction purposes but it only purchased two water-pumps and a coach for transporting of school girls.

Noorani alleged companies that hold the mining companies of Aynak copper, Nuraba and Samti gold, Kohi Safi Chromites, Chinarak, Dudkash coal, Ghori cement and Herat Marbles, responsible for not fulfilling their pledges in terms of rehabilitation and social services to the people of the areas.

Residents of the localities said the excavation of mining have left negative impact upon the local population. SalahuddinBasij, resident of Chaab district in northern Takhar province said the company working on a mine in his area had not performed social services as it had pledged earlier.

He said the construction of road, school, bridge and culverts were promised by the mining company of Nuraba gold reservoir but it did not fulfill its pledge. The development council head of Chaab district said the road that leads to the location of mine was in dilapidated condition despite the fact that the company had promised to construction the road.

Jamshid, another resident of Chaabdistrct, said the company busy in extraction at Nuraba and Samti gold reservoir had pledged to construct road, clinic, school and provide electricity to the residents of the locality but a single promise could not be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, resident of Chinarak village in the Chaab district, alleged the mining company for not implementing the social services programmes in the locality after held out promises.

Bashir, another resident of the locality, said the construction of a bridge close to the coal mine was direly needed. The coal mining company at the beginning promised to build a bridge, road, clinic and a school in the area but nothing could be done to facilitate the locals.

Fida Mohammad Tashi, director mines and petroleum, acknowledged mining companies took responsibilities to carry out rehabilitation and social services for the people of concerned areas.

He added the West General Trading Company had been failed to materialize its promises with the people of the localities regarding rehabilitation and reconstruction of the area.

Referring to a road, which was in dilapidated condition, the director said, it was the responsibility of the company to construct the road.  

Ghulam Muhammad Malakyar, deputy director of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), insisted strict measures had been taken for the protection of environment. He insisted NEPA had awarded licenses to those companies only which were taking steps to protect the environment.

Any company interested to get mining contract should first be introduce to NEPA in order to make sure that it would needed measures for the protection of environment before it gets the contract, he added. Malakyar said it was the duty of ministry of mines and petroleum to inform NEPA in prior of awarding any contract.

He said the company needs to sign a memorandum with the NEPA to make sure that the mining work would not leave negative impact on environment.

He said the memo had been prepared by a penal of environmental experts and got clearance from the ministry of mines and petroleum as well.

Malakyar said the agency had investigated several mining sites to see whether the contract holder was violating the rules and regulations. He said strict action would be taken against any company violating established law.

Mohammad Rafi Sadiqqui, spokesman of the ministry of mines and petroleum, said the protection of environment was the prime clause of an agreement between the contract holders and the ministry.

He said the ministry had rejected or delayed dozens of contract of companies that were not serious about protection of environment.

The ministry of mines and petroleum was striving hard to investigate the mining work of contract holders and find out flaws that causing environment pollution, the official said.

He said the mining work of Chinarak, Karkar, Sabzak coal mines and Nuraba, Samti, Qarazagan gold mines had not begun so far.

Once the mining work begins at the site, the company is bound to take necessary steps in order to avoid environmental pollution, he added.

Link: http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2014/08/20/most-mining-companies-found-violating-laws-regulations

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