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Weak govt control paves way for lithium smuggling

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KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghanistan has vast lithium reserves, just like other natural resources, but the illegal excavation and smuggling of the silver-white has been unchecked due to the poor strategy of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, officials and experts say.

Prof. Amir Mohammad Musazai, head of the Geology Faculty at Kabul University, described lithium as a precious element that was rarely found in different shapes. It is lighter than water and has silver and white colours.

Lithium being a sensitive element fast lost its colour and patina, he said, adding it could be found in sediment as well as inside stones in mountains. Lithium can be used in generating electricity and manufacturing medicine, especially for psychological patients.

It could be used in chargeable batteries of mobile phones, laptops, I-pads and other devices. It is also used in the aircraft-manufacturing industry.  As per geological surveys, Afghanistan has widespread natural reservoirs of lithium that were discovered in 1972 and 1973.

 Lithium is found in Talbozang and Shakhasham areas of Badakhshan, Pachiragam district of Nangarhar, Pasgosha, Yar Gul, GhoshaPayan, Darmagal and Jamnak, Pashki and Smagal areas of Kunar, the Shamkat locality of Laghman and the Tagawlar area of Uruzgan.  

Experts believe Afghanistan has large reserves of the metal in the eastern provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar and Laghman. But individuals and groups are involved in its illegal excavation and smuggling to Pakistan.

Wishing anonymity, an official of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum acknowledged the unlawful excavation of various natural reserves, including lithium, had been continuing unabated.

Mining of lithium by locals and Pakistani traders has been underway in different parts of Laghman and Nuristan provinces, he admitted, saying the natural resources of Afghanistan were being smuggled and exported to different countries with Pakistani labels.

Growing insecurity and a heavy militant presence are the main factors behind the illegal mining and smuggling, official sources say. Contractors and investors are not ready to launch mining in insecure areas.

Nuristan Mines and Petroleum Director AshiqullahHamkar also confirmed the illegal mining and smuggling of lithium from Nilab area. He said locals were smuggling lithium to Pakistan.

Lithium and other metals of Nuristan were illegally excavated and smuggled, said QaziInayatullahNazaryar, a provincial council member. He added the government had no control in areas where mines existed.

In addition, lithium is extracted from relatively peaceful areas of Nuristan before being smuggled to Pakistan. Abdul Ghaffar, a factory owner, said illegal mining was underway at almost all sites in Nuristan.

Officials blamed central authorities for an inordinate delay in establishment of the mines and petroleum department in Nuristan. But Hamkar said a proper strategy had been worked out to control illegal mining and smuggling of natural resources.

Link: http://ow.ly/wjDOc

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