AFGHANISTAN is a land of mountains and desert plains. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, there has been significant progress in the economy helped by the injection of over $8,000m of international assistance. Afghanistan has seen improvements in the agricultural and service sectors as well as the re-establishment of market institutions. Due to a lack of infrastructure, few skilled workers, and poor security, the government is not able to revive other parts of the economy such as the natural resources sector. There is no proper road map or legislation that can lead you to proper mining in most parts of the country.
Afghanistan has large untapped energy and mineral resources, which have great potential to contribute to economic development and growth. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a resource curse as the rich, extremists and warlords use it for their interest to be in power. But the poor are going to die both from the government side and also from the Taliban.
During my Geologic field excursion, I also met a few of the young miners. One of them Abdul Samad, was 19 years old. I asked him about his presence in one of the mines in Dara-i-Pech, Kunar, Afghanistan while taking green tea. He told me, I have four family members and there is no one to support them instead of me. I asked him about his father. Which he responded with tears in his eyes. He was martyred in a bomb blast two years ago. I was in school and a few of my relatives informed me about the incident. On that day I left the school and didn’t go back.
Most of the miners don’t have any idea of geology. They don’t have any knowledge of pegmatites and their formation. What are the tectonics behind this mineralization? They are working in two shifts with 4 members. While in each group there should be a senior guy who has almost 5 years of experience. He knows some of the path finder’s minerals based on their colors. In this way while following the veins they come crossing some of the pockets and if they are lucky enough to get the gems quality materials.
Accompanied by the guy mentioned guy. As a famous Afghan’s quote “Children become men very soon in Afghanistan”. He was walking into the mine without fear in his mind. The portal is quite narrow and you have to bend yourself to enter the gallery. Walking in low-ceiling mines is quite complicated for me. There were no safety gear or precautions. As there was no light we used just torchlight to move ahead. The water is dripping from above and sometimes without proper sanitation, there were pools of water reaching into the ankles. I stumbled at one point but thank God I survived with some slight injuries. There were some unusual drifts or ramps with a very high degree of inclination. We were almost 300 meters into the mine shaft, the roof collapsed as they didn’t leave the proper thickness required for sublevels. Using dynamite to proceed was the only source of the explosion. Due to this approach, 70% of the well-developed crystals are destroyed and broken down. Without a proper ventilation system for removing the dust created by blasting and drilling activities. It was hard for me to breathe. They were using manual trolleys for the removal of the excess waste material and dumping without taking care of anything.
This is how I found a few of the mines located in the Kwarangal location of Dara-I-Pech famous for its gemmy crystals and faceted grade tourmaline, kunzite, hiddenite, beryl’s, tantalite, pollucite, and many others.
Most of the miners were fortune seekers. One of the guys was working for almost 8 years. I asked about his annual income and he replied I will thank God if I get that much amount that’s enough to feed my children. But some others get a handful amount of money in a short period.