Sabzak coal mine agreement violated: Public reps
KABUL (Pajhwok): Illegal excavation of the Sabzak coalmine in western Herat province has been inflicting a loss of millions of afghanis on the national exchequer annually, lawmakers and provincial council members allege.
Public representatives from the province claim residents had serious reservations about government’s decision to award a contract for the mine to the Khoshak Company.
The contract was signed between Ibrahim Adil, former minister of mines and petroleum, and Didar Ali, head of the Khoshak Company, in September 2006. Its validity period is a decade.
Under the agreement, the company promised to invest $3 million in installation of heavy machinery at the site for coal mining. In addition, the firm had to pay 500 afghanis in tax on each tonne of coal annually.
But Masuda Karokhi, a parliamentarian from Herat, alleged the agreement with regard to the coalmine had not been implemented in letter and spirit.
The company did not provide the required facilities at the mining site and the amount of coal excavated daily remained unknown, she added.
She told Pajhwok Afghan News she was a member of the commission that visited Karokh district to assess the situation. But the Herat mines and petroleum department cancelled the trip, citing security reasons.
Toryalai Tahiri, a member of provincial council, endorsed Karokhi views and blamed Mohammad Raza Khoshak, a lawmaker and brother of the head of Khoshak Company, for influencing mine affairs.
Noor Mohammad Zarifi, another provincial council member, said he had visited Kabul several times along with other officials to inform the authorities concerned about growing irregularities at the mine.
He said foreigners were involved in coal mining and the Khoshak Company was extracting more coal than envisaged in the contract.
But Mohammad Raza Khoshak Watandost rejected the allegations, saying the company was extracting 50,000 tonnes of coal and paying government taxes regularly.
According to Watandost, the company made hectic efforts to identify and then extract coal.
A local wishing anonymity said the Khoshak Company had promised to build health centres and launch other welfare activities in the area but the commitments were never honoured.
Additionally, Watandost said, the company did not accept responsibility for any mishap at the mine site, such as death or injuries to workers
Abdul Rashid, whose land is close to the Sabzak mine, said drinking water was contaminated in the area due to the company’s negligence. The water contamination issue had been resolved partially, he explained.
Pajhwok Afghan News shared the grievances of locals with the director of mines but he refused to share his views.
Mohammad Rafi Siddiqui, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum spokesman, said the Khoshak Company had submitted a report about its activities. The ministry is closely observing excavation of coal.
Herat representatives in the Wolesi Jirga had been asked to share proofs of irregularities in the Sabzak coalmine, he added. The Khoshak Company was going ahead with the project satisfactorily, he believed.
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