Pajhwok holds first conference on Afghan mining

KABUL (Pajhwok):  Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN) on Sunday held its first investigative conference on mining in Afghanistan, highlighting six basic problems crippling the sector.

The news agency expressed its concerns about illegal mineral extractions and smuggling of the riches in a year-long investigation report released at an academic gathering in Kabul.

Mining experts, Wolesi Jirga members, civil society activists, Ministry of Mines officials, university teachers, Academy of Sciences members and media representatives were present at the day-long conference.

The participants, who admired the event and called it appreciable on Pajhwok’s part, also held two rounds of roundtable discussions on the investigative report.  They later asked questions from Mines Ministry officials.

Information given in the report corroborates the official account of continued illegal extractions and smuggling of the minerals out of the country, their processing abroad, problems in contracts and human rights violations, which all need attention.

Pajhwok Editor-in-Chief Danish Karokhel told the participants their effort in compiling the investigative report had been to introduce the country’s mines to the people and protect the riches from being plundered and preserve the reserves for investment. He said investment in the key sector could further fall if its current situation persisted.

Mining expert Ibrahim Jafri through a presentation said a huge quantity of gemstones was lost to explosions carried out in mines to extract them. The damaged stones lost their value and price, he added.

The expert lamented specific international and government standards of safety and environmental impact had been ignored in mining operations both government-sanctioned and illegal, leaving miners, including children hired against rules, to face the dangers come with their job.

Speaking at the conference, a number of Wolesi Jirga members confirmed problems in contracts and the mining sector. MP Bacha Gul Majidi claimed decisions on a number of mining contracts had been taken outside the country and the Ministry of Mines should be held answerable for that.

Deputy Mines and Petroleum Minister Eng. Nasir Ahmad Durrani on the occasion said such gatherings had been beneficial for the sector’s development. He urged media outlets to follow the principles of transparency and authenticity in their reports.

Calling the media as eyes of a society, Durrani said his ministry’s press section had been cooperative with journalists seeking access to information. The deputy mines minister said insecurity could not be overcome until illegal mining and smuggling continued. He said the illegal mining operations strengthened the armed opposition.

Interior Ministry spokesman Siddique Siddiqui said police were extensively engaged in fighting terrorists besides dealing with criminals and smugglers.

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