It is one of the most unfortunate facts in Afghanistan that the resources that can benefit the country to a great extent are not utilized the way they should be; instead they are used for personal gains by authoritative individuals or anti-state elements. Mineral resources are also very important for Afghanistan and they are present in large amounts in different parts of the country. According to some calculations by US, Afghanistan may possess mineral deposits worth around $1 trillion. However, the fact is that most of these mineral resources remain untouched and the ones that are being used are not used wisely or properly. Therefore, the mining sector in Afghanistan is suffering to a large extent.
Afghanistan’s mining sector, if developed appropriately, can support Afghan economy greatly. As Afghanistan would require standing on its own especially after the international community withdraws it troops completely and diminishes the financial and economic support. It can also support in providing job opportunities to thousands of people who are suffering from the evil of unemployment and are becoming a part of other social evils and terrorism. Ill-fatedly, this sector is also being influenced by corruption.
In a report on Saturday, January 16, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, (IWA) disclosed that rebels and unauthorized individuals continued to exploit the country’s natural resources, but no tangible steps had been taken to protect such sites, involving huge funds. And the funds and sites were still being exploited in callous ways.
He also added that the absence of coordination and planning were the main reasons behind irregularities and embezzlement. The international community injected money into the sector without a proper strategy to get revenue. He warned that the mining sector, whose revenue was going into the pockets of top government officials, powerful individuals, lawmakers and others, was faced with a serious crisis. The lack of professional workers to excavate mines is also damaging the sector. He also claimed that the militants are out to fuel insecurity in areas where natural resources are excavated. They take control of these areas and the revenue line their pockets; while the government has failed to take any serious measure.
Earlier in the week, a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction (SIGAR) revealed that $488 million investments in Afghanistan’s mining sector did not prove to be effective and there were still chances of the country’s riches being misused.
This information depicts a very pathetic state of affairs. Misuse of funds and corruption in the sector would mean that there are more challenges than the other basic ones that have hampered the growth of the sector. If the resources that can support the government and the people of Afghanistan are helping insurgents, it would ultimately result in the victory of the insurgents against the country, which means that the people of Afghanistan would not see their dreams of peace and tranquility come true.
Apart from the corruption in the sector, insecurity is also hampering the sector from getting any boost. Terrorism seems to be rising in some of the most important parts of the country and the security situation still remains a question mark. Threatened by insecurity major projects regarding the mining sector have been postponed. The ones that have been started are lagging behind their schedule. The international investors are losing their interest as they do not feel that their investment would bring fruit in such uncertain circumstances. Moreover, the regional ties regarding peace and security seem to have just started and the reconciliation process is still vague. Thus, reliable security still remains dubious.
In such circumstances, development of a strong mining sector seems a herculean task. The mining sector is not just about digging the minerals out of the earth. It includes a complete development of an infrastructure. It involves complicated processes, machinery and latest technology. Most importantly, it requires a reliable and working transportation system that must be free of risk and must prove helpful in transporting heavy equipments and human resource to the mountainous areas where minerals are located. In addition, the same transportation system must transfer the minerals that are dug out to different plants for being refined and changed to usable conditions.
The mining sector also requires strong, cheap and reliable communication system that must remain undisturbed by the culprits. As a matter of fact, for the whole process, in order to reach to its final phase, a lot of investment and a decade or more of peaceful socio-political circumstances are required. While forming expectations about mining sector, it is necessary for the government officials to keep in considerations all these facts.
Definitely, generations of instability have incapacitated Afghanistan to work on these resources but at the same time it would require, at least a generation if not generations of stability to bring these resources in use. It is not impossible; neither the purpose of this article has been to promulgate pessimism about the circumstances. Its main objective has been to remind the people of Afghanistan and most importantly the Afghan authorities to analyze the socio-political and politico-economic conditions rationally and try to comprehend the challenges appropriately.
After the challenges are understood appropriately, measures can be carried out to find out proper solution of the challenges. It is really encouraging that there are expectations from the mining sector, but these expectations must not be converted to fantasies rather they should be changed to realities through prudence and positive attitude.