50pc of Herat marbles lost during mining
KABUL (Pajhwok): Due to negligence on the part of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, a large portion of marble is lost during mining in western Herat province, local officials say.
The marble mine in Chasht-i-Sharif district is the country’s largest and of best quality, but it is excavated unprofessionally with the help of heavy machinery and explosives.
As a result, 50 percent of the marble extracted is lost or badly damaged. Governor Fazlullah Wahidi said Herat has multiple mineral deposits, including precious and semi-precious stones.
He said many mines have so far been explored and some remained untapped.
Wahidi expressed his concern about illegal mining of natural resources, saying extractions by unskilled people caused damages to the riches.
He said miners needed to be trained in order to avoid further destruction. He said the marble quarry in Chasht-i-Sharif was in terrible condition for being unprofessionally untapped.
He said companies involved in mining the site lacked sufficient machinery and professional miners.
Wahidi said the government had no sufficient funds to utilise them for training miners in professional skills.
The governor also criticised the provincial Mines Department for being unable to fully control natural resources in Herat.
He said the mining sector contributed 25 percent to the total revenue of Herat province and the revenue could increase to 30 percent if affairs at the vital sector were made transparent.
Abdur Rahim from Chasht-i-Sharif district said the marble mine in their districts was dug unprofessionally.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News most companies used explosives and excavators to extract marble and area residents had time and again complained to authorities concerned in this regard, but to no avail.
Thirteen parts of the Chasht-i-Sharif marble mine have been awarded to private companies under a bidding process, but none are yet to execute their development activities.
Omeed, who lives near the mine, said the companies conducted explosions at nighttime to extract marble.
He said some obsolete machines have been symbolically placed at the site and in fact never used.
Another resident of Chasht-i-Sharif acknowledged the problems, saying most of companies did not have the required machinery to exploit the marble mine.
He said digging the mine by excavators or explosives resulted in the destruction of a huge quantity of marbles. He urged the authorities concerned to monitor the mining process and prevent marbles from being lost.
Herat provincial council member Mohammad Askar Noori said their investigation showed the Chasht-i-Sharif marble mine project was rife with widespread corruption.
The extraction of marbles by explosives was of a matter of great concern, he said, adding the companies involved needed tools and professionals.
His colleague Massoudi Karokhi acknowledged marbles in Herat were illegally mined.
He said the mining process had never been properly monitored and the state’s wake authority in Chasht-i-Sharif district was a result of widespread corruption in awarding contracts to private companies.
“Too much marble is wasted at the Chasht-i-Sharif mine. You will cry if you see the situation there,” Karokhi regretted.
The public representative added the absence of professional engineers and modern machines were the main reasons why explosives and excavators were used to mine marble.
“If a contractual company does not pay money to the Taliban’s Quetta Council members, it cannot carry out extraction works. A company has to play money to the Taliban if it wants to extract minerals,” he claimed.
The Wali Asr Malistan marble processing factory director said marble extracted from the Chasht-I-Sharif district mine was of good quality.
Mehdi Ahmadi said marble extraction should be performed using professional methods. “When we buy marbles, unfortunately we find some of the extraction companies unprofessional,” he said.
He said they were currently buying marbles from Boradaran-i-Adel and Dost companies, which were comparatively professional companies.
Herat Commerce and Industry deputy director Siros Elaf said the lack of transparency in awarding contracts to companies could be blamed for poor marble extraction.
He said local officials and people should oversee the extraction process to prevent illegal activities.
His boss Saad Khatibi also confirmed substandard extraction of marbles, saying that currently 15 companies were busy extracting the stones by using different methods and machines.
He accused the authorities concerned of paying no proper attention to resolve the problems and improve the performance of the companies involved in digging up marble.
He said marbles found in Herat had international reputation, but were sold at throw-away prices in foreign markets for being improperly processed.
Afghanistan Academy of Sciences Director Najmuddin Tarin, also a mines expert, said currently marble extraction was performed by two methods that included using machines and explosives.
He said the use of machine was very useful compared to using explosives, which caused huge damage to marbles.
The extraction of marble should be performed in the presence of mine experts.
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