KABUL: Residents of Raghistan district in northeastern Afghanistan say that Badakhshan gold mines are now under Taliban control as insurgency has gained momentum in the provinces.
Powerful individuals and the Taliban were using advanced equipment to extract gold illegally and pocket its revenues in Badakhshan, Raghistan district governor Abdul Rahim Farhat has said.
The Taliban had even encouraged thousands of locals to extract gold in a bid to earn more money, he said.
He said that the Taliban meet their logistical and financial needs by taking their share from the people’s incomes.
Gold mines in Badakhshan are one of the largest mineral resources in the province after the Azure mines, earning prodigious amounts of money every year. The Raghistan district gold mine is located in the Vikador area and is one of the largest gold mines in Badakhshan.
The Afghan government initially planned to outsource its mining to a Turkish company seven years ago, but the company’s uncertainty about the security situation in the district prevented it from doing so.
According to Farhat, more than 180 excavators are currently working on the site. The Taliban affiliates who control the area are mining sediment gold at 180 sites, extracting one ounce of gold worth almost $230 a day from each location.
Badakhshan Governor Mohammad Zekria Sawda also acknowledged that the Taliban were using the proceeds of the Vikador Gold Mine to finance their fronts in Badakhshan and other parts of the Northeast. He said the Taliban made considerable amount of proceeds from the mine and had escalated fighting in the northeast. There are efforts to prevent this, he said.
Officials in Badakhshan acknowledge that with the exception of Raghistan district center and a village called Siab Dasht, other parts of Raghistan district are under Taliban control.
Officials say no action has been taken to retake the area. Badakhshan police spokesman Sanaullah Rouhani said he had informed Kabul but no operation had been launched.
Qadir Mutafi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Mines, said the ministry was planning to legalize the extraction of gold in Raghistan. “We want to legalize the extraction done by the local people,” he said.
Tribal elders in Badakhshan, especially in Raghistan district, say that if the government’s plan to legalize the extraction process is delayed further, the Taliban’s war machine may become more active.