A suspected gem stone smuggler has said mines in Badakhshan’s Karan-o-Manjan district, especially those extracting Lapis Lazuli, are out of government’s control and are being mined illegally.
Speaking to TOLOnews, the man from Keshm district in Badakhshan, said he turned to smuggling after losing all his money in the construction sector three years ago.
The smuggler, who was recently apprehended by border forces at Torkham while carrying almost three kilograms of Lapis Lazuli to Pakistan, said he has smuggled a large amount of gemstones from Karan-o-Manjan mines.
The 43-year-old man said he takes them to Peshawar in Pakistan where he sells them.
“If you go to Peshawar, you can see trucks full of these stones, that have crossed at Torkham because the stones cannot be transported by air,” said the smuggler.
He said that the mines in Karan-o-Manjan district are mostly under the control of local mafia.
“Illegal armed men are involved in this sector and they all belong to one tribe. These mines are for the residents of Karan-o-Manjan and the rest of the people in Badakhshan do not have a share in it,” said the smuggler.
Torkham border police acknowledged precious and semi-precious stones are smuggled out of the country from Badakhshan mines. They said they now use modern equipment to detect such goods at the port but have called on government to install scanners.
“Government should provide us with scanners to check people and their bags in order for us to provide better security at Torkham,” said Mohammad Sadiq Ahmazai, deputy commissioner of Torkham port.
“Based on an interior ministry decision, a battalion has been formed to protect the mines. The battalion staff have come here and are stationed at their posts,” Badakhshan police chief Abdul Khaliq Aqsai said.
In 2016, Global Witness released finds of a survey and stated an investigation found that Afghanistan’s 6,500 year old lapis mines are driving corruption, conflict and extremism in the country.
Global Witness found that the Taliban and other armed groups are earning up to $20 million USD per year from Afghanistan’s lapis mines.
At the time, Stephen Carter, Afghanistan Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said: “These lapis mines are one of the richest assets of the Afghan people and should be driving development and prosperity.”
“Instead, the beautiful lapis lazuli stone has become a conflict mineral. The mines provide a tiny fraction of the benefit they should, and have become a major source of conflict and grievance, which is driving the insurgency and undermining hope for stability in Afghanistan – which could have consequences globally.
“Unless the Afghan government acts quickly, these mines represent not just a lost opportunity but a threat to the future of the whole country,” said Carter at the time.
“The Afghan government must urgently re-establish the rule of law at these mine sites, and strengthen oversight and transparency for mining across the country to make sure these natural resources serve the Afghan people to whom they belong,” he said.