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Illegal mining of Faryab stucco continues

Illegal mining of Faryab stucco continues

Oct 28, 2017 - 19:12

MAIMANA (Pajhwok): Illegal extraction of stucco deposits in Sherin Tagab district of northern Fayab province has been underway for the past two years involving powerful individuals and militants.

Discovered seven years back, the stucco deposits are situated in Astana Baba area at eight locations. Contracts for extracting the cement plaster had been awarded to local companies who extracted 400 to 1,000 tons of stucco annually. 

In the past, the mines would generate up to two million afghanis revenue for the government, but now due to insecurity and lawlessness, the stucco mine is illegally excavated.

Some businessmen, factory owners, sellers of stucco and local representatives of Fayab province say incorrect policies of the government have resulted in massive embezzlement of stucco mine’s revenue.

They say local contractors had stopped their operations since two years in line with a presidential order, but illegal mining of stucco continues.

Raees Mohammad Ali, a stucco factory owner, said during former president Hamid Karzai government, he would excavate 1,000 tons of stucco under the contract and provide 464 afghanis in tax per ton to the government. But since two years, President Ghani had dismissed the contract.

He said money that previously went to the government treasury two years back now pocketed by powerful and militants.

He said if the government ensured security, stopped extortionists and renewed contracts with local companies, a huge amount of money would again start pouring into government treasures.

Khairullah, owner of a stucco factory, said cancellation of contracts with local companies offered powerful individuals  and security officials the opportunity to illegally extract the natural reservoirs.

He said factory owners were tired of government’s wrong policies, presence of militants, powerful individuals and corrupt elements at the site of mine. “Wages of workers, electricity bills, food and other expenses have become a huge burden on factory owners’.”

Abdul Ahad Ilbig, the provincial council deputy head, said restrictions on legal use and extraction of stucco did not benefit the people and the government and instead paved the ground for illegal extractions.

He said many mineral deposits, including stucco, were found in Babai village of Sherin Tagab district, but the area was under Taliban’s control where the minerals were being illegally extracted, benefitting insurgents, powerful figures and factory owners.

The public representative said it would be better if the government exploited stucco mines in cooperation with the private sector as it would help boost government’s income and create jobs.

Mohammad Hussian, a stucco seller in Maimana city, said extracting stucco was banned two years, but truckers continued to transfer it every night to the provincial capital against 8,000 afghanis in bribe to police.

He said since two months the truckers were allowed during day time to transfer stucco in exchange for 2,000 afghanis to police per truck.

Insecurity and lack of government’s control

Sayed Sharafuddin, acting Sherin Tagab district chief, also confirmed the area where stucco deposits existed fell to the Taliban two years ago.

The situation threatened factories’ security and rendered the government unable to prevent illegal extraction of the mine.

Nine stucco processing factories are available in Sherin Tagab, he said, adding the mineral’s legal extraction came to a halt two years ago and its illegal extraction began after contracts with factories were cancelled.

Sayed Sharafuddin said the illegal extraction could be prevented if entrances to Maimana and Sherin Tagab district were controlled.

However, he said the remaining processing factories might be sent packing if they were not allowed to resume legal extraction and processing of stucco.

Provincial mines and petroleum director, Mehrabuddin, said contracts for stucco mining with the private sector were cancelled in compliance with an order from the president and senior officials two years ago.

He said the mine’s area was under Taliban’s control and it was illegally extracted. “We had contracts with nine factories for extraction and processing in the past, but we are unaware how many if the factories are still operational,” he said.

Mehrabuddin confirmed Taliban, factory owners, government officers and security officials benefited from stucco’s illegal extraction, but named no one.

Faryab Governor Mohammad Humayon Fawzi said he was newly appointed as the governor and lacked much information about many issues including illegal extraction of the mineral.

But provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Delawar Shah Delawar said the area was under Taliban’s control therefore local officials could not prevent the illegal extraction.

However, he said the government, particularly the Faryab government, was committed to launching a clearing operation in the area in near future.

Meanwhile, a Taliban member in Sherin Tagab, Damla Yousuf Haqyar, said they took tax from the private sector and factories extracting stucco.

He said they would prevent the extraction if the government leased it to someone.

Sherin Tagab’s stucco has good market in the country and traders have cut short importing the mineral from Iran and Pakistan.

Experts say Afghanistan will not need to import stucco from other countries if the government ensures security for Sherin Tagab stucco mine and its processing.