Taliban’s income from illegal mining to be blocked: official
The Taliban and other armed groups are earning up to 20 million dollars annually from Afghanistan’s lapis mines, used in jewellery around the world, Global Witness found, demanding the stone should be classified as a conflict mineral.
In a report, the watchdog said violent competition for control of the lucrative mines and their revenue, between local strong men, MPs and the Taliban had deeply destabilised the northeastern province of Badakhshan.
“With the Taliban on the outskirts of the mines themselves, as well as controlling key roads into the mining areas, there is now a real risk that the mines could fall into their hands,” Global Witness noted, calling the mines a strategic priority for the so-called Islamic State.
Unless the Afghan government acted rapidly to regain control of the natural wealth, the battle for the lapis mines would intensify and further destabilise the country, as well as fund extremism, it warned.
“The lapis mines … are a microcosm of a problem that is replicated across the country, where mining is the Taliban’s second biggest source of income. Money from mines is an important source of wealth to fund essential services, including security, health and education,” the report said.
Afghanistan sits on over a trillion dollars mineral, oil and gas deposits, which could provide the government with over $2 billion in revenue a year, if developed properly. But corruption and failure to secure mining sites means that mines have been targeted by insurgent groups and are now a major contributor to conflict.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told a joint press conference with Mines Ministry spokesman that the Global Witness’s study was a huge step and it would be evaluated.
“We are trying to prevent illegal mining and we have taken some measures in this regard as well but the measures are not enough. In light of the Global Witness report, we commit ourselves to preventing illegal mining in Afghanistan and take action against those involved.”
Sediqi said police had been able to prevent illegal excavation of chromites in central Logar and southeastern Khost province last year and no problem could be seen in those deposits now.
He said police had arrested and referred to judicial organs individuals involved in illegal mining in Logar province. Last year also, police confiscated 65 trucks loaded with lapis lazuli extracted from Badakhshan in central Parwan province.
He said the National Security Council yesterday asked security organs to present a strategy on preventing Taliban’s access to mineral deposits.
“Besides income from poppy, Taliban also earn from illegal mining and smuggling of minerals, which is national wealth. The Taliban plunder national wealth in front of the eyes of Afghans.” He said some opportunists taking advantage of insecurity in some areas were digging minerals.
Mines and Petroleum Ministry spokesman Muhiuddin Noori his ministry was thankful to the Global Witness for releasing its investigative report. He acknowledged illegal mining took place in a number of areas, but said the ministry had been able to bring to a halt 1270 illegal mining operations.
He said if security forces and law enforcing agencies maintained security for mines, his ministry was ready to issue contracts through a legal firm.
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