Taliban hesitant to prevent illegal mining in north

A mine worker in Baghlan, northern Afghanistan.

The Taliban has decided not to prevent illegal mining in various northern provinces at coal reservoirs, specifically, saying it has provided jobs to the people amidst a sharp rise in unemployment.

The illegal mining often targets coal reservoirs in Baghlan, Kunduz, Samangan and Sar-e-Pul provinces.

Most of the coal which is extracted illegally is sent to Pakistan as Afghanistan has expedited the export of coal to the neighboring country.

“We cannot call it illegal; it is unofficial extraction, which is most common in the north,” said Esmatullah Burhan, the spokesman of the Taliban’s ministry of mines and petroleum.

“We don’t want this to be stopped because a lot of people are working there. I am not only talking about coalmines, but people are busy in other mines as well. We want our countrymen to have jobs,” he added.

Analysts said that Afghanistan’s mineral resources are belonged to all citizens of the country and that any government should protect them and should hand their extraction to companies through transparent bidding processes.

“It is illegal and is a type of looting of Afghanistan’s property no matter to whom it is handed. It will create problems for the people in future,” said Sayed Massoud, a former university lecturer.

The business community says the Taliban needs to prevent illegal mining that has been a major issue in the country for years – including under previous governments.

“Taliban should provide the ground for legal mining and should hand the contracts to national companies to benefit the country,” said Mohammad Karim Azimi, the CEO of the chamber of industry and mines in Kabul.

The export of coal to Pakistan was expedited by the Taliban in the last six months, leading to a sharp increase in its prices in local markets. Figures by the ministry of mines show that the country has at least 80 coal reserves and 17 are under extraction.