Besides corruption, influence of local powerbrokers challenge improving mining in Baghlan

  Ahmad – Staff member of the Community Based Monitoring of Extractives (CBM-E) in Baghlan

Natural resources, especially the coal mines of Baghlan are a resource of vital importance for the government of Afghanistan. The mines of Baghlan province, including the coal mines of Karkar, Doodkash, Ahandara, Khurd Darah, Chinarak, Sheendara, Alogak and Taala-wa-Barfak, have the potential to generate significant income for the government. However, corruption, unprofessional extraction methods, usurpation of the extraction by local warlords and other misuses of the mines by government rivals can all result is the embezzlement of large amounts of money from these mines.

There exists immense corruption in Baghlan province in the mining and extractives sector. Additionally, the unprofessional excavation of mines has jeopardized the future of these industries and may turn many into “mine ruins”. The CBM-E Program has frequently encountered such issues as well as contract violations and violations of national labor standards and regulations while conducting monitoring on the mentioned mines. The Ghori Cement contract is a vivid example. Since the contract of this company was cancelled by the government, the mentioned company has intentionally deactivated some of the machinery at Cement Ghori Industry and has transferred these assets to other locations.

The Karkar and Doodkash mines are currently occupied by armed insurgents who exploit the mines and pocket income which would otherwise accrue to the government. While this issue was raised by local observers with the Executive Department of Karkar and Dudkash, they did not take any practical measures indicating that the issue was the responsibility of the Security Council and the Ministry of Mining & Petroleum.

In addition to the control of some mines by armed opposition groups in the area, other mines are extracted in a substandard manner by local power holders who put the income from such mining into their own pockets. In some cases even, such as the Alogaki and Andarab coal mines, the coal is being extracted and consumed by the local people.

Violations of the labor rights is another challenge.  In some cases, there exists no contract between the extracting firms and the laborers which puts the mine workers in a difficult situation where they are unable to obtain government assistance, even if the government were inclined to step in to assist.

The salaries of mine laborers is also typically set at a level which is in contradiction with specific norms and with the labor laws in Afghanistan. During the monitoring functions undertaken by IWA’s CBM-E program, it was noticed that the minimum range of salary for labors working 8 hours daily is Afs. 6,000 monthly (USD 90) and for the laborers conducting overtime up to 12 hours, the maximum range of wages reaches only up to Afs. 10,000 monthly (USD 150). Such salaries do not cover even the most basic needs of a typical family.

The Community Based Monitoring of Extractives (CBM-E) in the province has so far been able to provide awareness to laborers on their rights and to the public on how to monitor mines. In addition to this, the laborers who conduct monitoring of the extraction of mines in areas under the dominance of the government, now do report any important issues when noticed. However, as an overall matter, it should be disclosed that most of the extractive industries of Baghlan province including Cementi Ghori, Karkar, Dudkash and coal mines of Ahan Darah and Khurd Dara are facing corruption that must be addressed by the government.