Panjsher emerald mine in a state of neglect


KABUL (Pajhwok): Central Panjsher province has enormous gemstone reserves, but official’s apathy and illegal extraction has put the national wealth at risk, Pajhwok reliably learnt on Tuesday. Mine and Petroleum Department officials allege most of the mining activity was done in violation of rules and regulations.

According to M&P Department officials, bulk of the mineral is extracted illegally. Abdul Bari Rahimi, director of the department, told Pajhwok Afghan News so far no company had been granted the contract to extract minerals in the northeastern province.

Emerald, one of the most precious gemstones in the world, is found in abundance in Panjsher. A recent survey by the Oxford University revealed alongside emerald, silver is also available here.

The Mining and Petroleum Department claimed huge reserves of coal, aquamarine, amethyst and lapis lazuli were another asset and the reason to hope for foreign investment in the sector would boost the national economy.

According to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP), the National Survey of Mines, emerald deposits were discovered here in the 1977. Abdul Bari Rahimi said an official contract for emerald exploration would be awarded soon to a successful bidder.

The contract would cover an area of about 200 square meters, he said, stressing the agreement would be aimed to assess the deposits, their quality and other technical matters.

Lamenting the illegal extraction by locals, Rahimi said the use of dynamites and other illegal means was causing an immense loss to the economy and the deposits themselves. And that was why foreign and Afghan companies were reluctant to invest in the mining sector, the director argued.

Stopping illegal extraction of emerald in Panjsher was beyond their capacity, he confessed. Lack of understanding and coordination between the provincial department and the ministry is seen as another major obstacle.

Meanwhile, Governor Abdul RehmanKabiri rejected the claims by Director of Mines Rahimi. He noted former mines minister Shahrani had inspected the site. “How can one call it illegal when the department is receiving royalty?” he questioned.

In an exclusive interview with PAN, the governor blamed the ministry for not granting anyone the extraction contract. Hitting out at the director of mines, Kabiri believed no one would evince any interest -- no matter how eagerly the department sought an extraction contract.

Defending the limited use of dynamites, the governor claimed the amount of explosives was not threatening enough to warrant police intervention. He, however, agreed the precious wealth would not be wasted if professional people were issued licences. Kabiri claimed influential people were involved in illegal extraction.

Zaheer Sadat, Panjsher representative in the parliament, did not repudiate illegal mining in the picturesque valley. Sadat said he too had asked MoMP to explain the issue.


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