Samangan is home to some of Afghanistan's largest coal mines, yet many of those who work inside them are just children. TOLOnews report Karimi Amini visited mines in the Dare Soof district of Samangan province and investigated the child labor conditions in the mines there.
The need for child workers in the mines is said to be the result of how small and narrow the tunnels inside of them are. Despite the tunnels being dug - primarily by local residents and smugglers - without consideration of proper safety standards, many child laborers work inside them for up to eight hours a day.
"These tunnels are not standard; the standard tunnels are two and half meters of height," Dare Soof District Governor Ahmad Ali Hassani said. "People have dug the tunnels with the shovels that they have, at low heights, and they use children and mules to extract the coal."
The Dahne Toor coal mine, located in Dare Soof, is thought to contain over one hundred tunnels. The mine averages some 6,000 employees, two thousand of which are consisted child laborers.
Ahmad Hussain is 14 years old, but due to his family's poverty, he has been forced to work in a coal mine in return for 300 Afghanis an hour day. He has been working in the mines for the past three years. "I am forced to work," Hussain told TOLOnews. "I used to study, but now I have quit that as well."
The mines are extremely unsafe without the proper safety precautions in place. The risks of a tunnel collapse and poisoning from the gases inside the tunnels are very high. The children working in the mines lack basic safety equipment such as hard hats.
"We go inside the mine for 15 minutes, God is protecting us," a young miner named Rohullah said. "If the mine collapses, many people will die of the gas inside the tunnel, but we have to go, otherwise, who would do this?"
Some of the kids working the mines go up to 1,000 meters deep into the tunnels. Some even spend the nights below ground. "Its life, we have to...I owe people," another young miner named Jawad told TOLOnews.
Afghanistan's mining industry is known for its lack of standards and regulation. Last year, as a result of an explosion of methane gas inside a tunnel in Samangan's Dare Soof district, 22 miners lost their lives.