LASHKARGAH (SW) – Pakistani and Chinese engineers are busy in illegal mining of gold in the Taliban-controlled areas of Helmand, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
According to the local officials, this illegal and rampant mining has been underway in parts of Garmsir, Khanneshin and Rabat districts for quite a while now.
Attaullah Afghan, Chairman provincial council, told Salam Watandar Pakistani engineers are busy in illegal extraction of gold and marble mines in the Rabat and Desho areas of Helmand bordering Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. He said the extracts are cunningly smuggled to Baluchistan first and later transported to designated centers in other parts of Pakistan.
He added this illegal mining has expedited in the past some months.
The Taliban spokesman, Qari Yosuf Ahmadi, has rejected these reports. In a statement sent to the media, he said no Pakistanis have been allowed to engage in smuggling and mining for gold or marble.
Gold and marble mines alone are not faced with such a disastrous situation.
Helmand’s Khanneshin and Deshi districts are rich with rare earth metals as well as uranium as well as lithium
In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. The aerial surveys determined that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan's Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements.
Najeeb Baluch, former governor of Khanneshin, told SW that the illegal mining by Pakistani and Chinese engineers continue in Rabat area of the province.
When contacted, Mohammad Yaseen Khan, provincial governor, said a strategy has been shared by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and the provincial administration with the Arg (Presidency) aimed at safeguarding these mines close to the Durand Line with Pakistan. He said wait is on for the approval of this strategy.
Ironically, these mines are located at a distance of less than 200 miles from the provincial capital, Lashkargah. And, Chairman for the provincial council, Attaullah Afghan claims a single battalion of army alone can stop the trafficking of minerals to Pakistan.