Thursday, 28 December 2017

Various types of valuable minerals in Afghanistan yet to be unearthed

Afghanistan Mining Potential, Challenges and The Way Forward
by Mohammad Ismail Amin - Mining Expert based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This article was originally published on KHAAMA PRESS

Afghanistan strategic location is not only of an immense importance but also the tremendous natural resources the country possesses.
According to AISA research, there are various types of valuable minerals in Afghanistan that are yet to be unearthed. Afghanistan potential as a rich country in terms of natural resources is of significant to driving the country’s donor dependent economy into a self-sufficient state. Lack of peace, exploitation of minerals by warlords, lack of regulation and infrastructure have not allowed the country to stand on its feet.
In this article, I will be looking at the general mining practices around the world and comparing it with Afghanistan and by the same token explain how the challenges that jeopardizes professional mining in the country.

Lack of detailed Geological and Geographical information of the mining sites
The fact is that Afghanistan has the most complex and varied geology in the world, it is very essential to study and collect enough of information regarding the geology and geography of the mining sites. Unfortunately, Afghanistan remained in war for almost 4 decades, from the foreign invasion to civil wars and it has paralysed the mining sector in terms of collection of geological data, geophysical prospecting which is directly related to the mineral discovery, subsurface geological features usually with economic objectives. Though, in this regard Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) is the national custodian of geoscientific information but mining sector needs more detailed information regarding minerals discovery.
The current mining operational practices and extraction of minerals, do not have enough of clues regarding the geology of the sites being mined, the hydrogeology of the area and more possible minerals being disturbed or avoided. The more important is the extraction of minerals indulges the more detailed geological, geographical and hydrogeological knowledge to avoid numerous environmental impacts and hazards which has to be taken in account.

Well defined Topography and Aerial Surveys
A topographic map with contour intervals gives detailed information regarding relief or terrain, the three-dimensional quality of the surface and the identification of the specific landform. Aerial surveys and mapping technologies have been used for over 40 years around the world in terms of assisting mining companies through all phases of a mine’s life, including exploration, resource evaluation, feasibility, mine design, development, operations and site rehabilitation.

From Afghanistan mining perspective, on small scale mining even though in some cases in large scale mining application most often we avoid the importance of Geographical information system (GIS), aerial digital surveys and we lack these foremost important facilities in order to come up with a successful mining practices. It is very essential for the companies working in mining sector to adopt the standard mining operations from start to end.

Selection of Suitable Mining Method
Mining method selection is one of the most critical and crucial part of mining engineering. However, the ultimate goals to select a suitable mining method is to maximum the profit, increase the extraction and recovery of mineral deposits and work on safe environment for the miners with least problems among the feasible alternatives. The selection of a suitable mining method is a real problematic task that needs consideration of many technical aspects, economic, political and social aspects. Technical feasibility, ore geometry and ground conditions are the important consideration that has to be taken in account along with low-cost mining operation. Every ore body has its own unique occurrences with various properties, and engineering judgement in this particular part has a great effect on the decision in such versatile job of mining. In Afghanistan, mostly we have observed the old conventional surface mining methods, where in some cases it contradicts with the mineral deposit or ore body. It is very much important to study, search and adopt the current mining methods that are being used around the world.

Selection of Suitable machinery and Equipment
We have witnessed millions of dollars are being poured into the mining industry but we are failed to equip the mining operations with suitable advanced machinery and equipment. According to the directorate of Policy, MOM, encourages the importation of latest technology, quarrying equipment and machinery that would improve the efficiency, productivity of mining applications but unfortunately yet it is not brought into actions. Lapis lazuli and tourmaline mines of the rugged north-eastern province of Badakhshan are considered to be the richest assets of mining industry in Afghanistan, but due to improper mining and direct rivals in the violent competition between warlords disrupt the mining sites. If these mines become standardised, formalized and facilitated with suitable equipment and machinery, a mine worker would not carry load of over a 100kg lapis lazuli down the valley. The selection of these machinery and equipment varies in terms of the mineral deposit, method of mining and items of equipment to perform a specified task. Since we have most of the surface mining applications, the selection of equipment to extract and haul mined material, which includes both ore and waste, over the life time of mining pit. With selection of suitable fleet of equipment and their application, not only minimize the capital cost but also minimize the operational costs. Keeping in consideration and classifying the equipment selection process into three main phases, such as type of fleet, size of equipment and calculation of the required numbers.

Lack of Advanced Technology & Software to Create Ore Body Model
The development and advancement of computer technology rapidly increasing day by day and it has made the mining applications very simple and easy. The very important and basic usage of the computerised software in the mining is the reserve estimation, geological modelling, layout evaluation and mine design, financial modelling, selection of equipment and scheduling, geotechnical information and monitoring the overall mining operation. The sad dilemma is that in Afghanistan mining sector most of the mines yet do not have the usage of all these software facilities. It is important for the government and the Ministry of Mines (MoM) to urge the artisanal and small-scale mining companies to use recent advanced software such as SURPAC, MINEX, OPTIMUM, SURFUR, VULCAN, iGantt and many more. These latest and advanced software should become a part of academic excellence in universities for degree and diploma programs and government ought to arrange such informative seminars and workshops on this. As these integrated computers aided mine planning and design software not only help to increase the deposit-grade recovery but also greatly reduces the cost.

Lack of Mining Experts
Mining is a versatile field, it needs a lot of knowledge and experience to understand. A mining expert and engineer ensure that new processes and advanced technologies are introduced so that current businesses are optimised, update and utilised. This can only be done by innovative ideas to ensure quantum leap in performance and competitiveness. The mining experts and engineers supposed to have scarce and crucial skills. Unfortunately, Afghanistan mining sector has got very less number of such skilful experts. In small scale mining, we have observed contract based labours those who are not mining engineers by profession neither they have earned mining diploma. A mining engineer and expert supposed to ensure the safe and efficient development of mines along with surface and underground mining operations, surrounding environment and technical skills.

Processing Plants
As the word ‘processing’ indicates to those methods are being employed in mining industry to clean, separate, and prepare coal, metals, and non-metallic minerals from mines into final marketable products. The processing plants are responsible for the extraction of the pure form of the mineral from the ore body which is later on securely packed and shipped to market and customers for further usage and conversion. This help in getting a first-hand revenue and profit thus mining company has direct connection and approach to market. Bakhund fluorite deposit (BFD) which is situated in Kandahar Province mined by a private mining company, their current production reaches up to 60000mt/year as they claimed to have a mechanised processing plant. Their production can reach up to double of the current per year production. Most of the small or large scales mines do not have well adequate processing plants where these mineral deposits are sent to neighbouring countries for processing and laboratory purposes which lessen the profit. It is very essential to have these processing plants in host countries rather than the profit is being shared and minimized.

Environmental Impacts
Environmental impacts have a direct relation with mining operations, if it is not carefully looked after it would create a mess that can have some serious hazards to human being, animal and plants. The mining sites which are mined supposed to be reclaimed and planted with trees and other plants in order to make sure soil erosion, land sliding and other disasters. While collecting the information and history, mining sites being mined are left behind without proper reclamation. Afghanistan environmental law and National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) stresses out the law to be implemented after area being mined but unfortunately very less of this implantation is observed. The unprofessional way of mining, conventional mining method have brought water level into a record level down, but also contaminated it with various chemicals being used or dumped nearby water reservoirs. The use explosives materials on mine sites could harm the and chemically pollute the air.

Way Forward
As mentioned, the above article gives a bird eye view over mining operational activities. There are few recommendations to mining sector of Afghanistan that the government should take them in account and must insure deciding whether mining is an appropriate land use.
  • Before starting operational mining site activities, there should be a detailed feasibility study report, which would include acknowledgment of mining that modifies landscapes and has possible long-term impact on communities and natural resources, site geology, geographical information, operational mining methods and an economic feasibility report.
  • There must be surety of socially sensitive or environmentally responsible mining.
  • The government and private owned mines must insure the standard mineral processing equipment, i.e. crushing & screening, Grinding & classifying, separation equipment, thickening & dewatering.
  • Hire more mining experts and engineers in industry who got skills in various mining software and GIS.
  • Ensuring good governance and Mining free of corruption.

Afghanistan: TAPI gas pipeline Project to kick off in first months of 2018

Afghan officials said that the practical work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gaspipeline Project will kick off in 2018. Senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani on financial and banking affairs said the project will be up and running in 2019. He said three gas distribution centers will be established in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces to benefit from the project. The project will transfer gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India via a 1,814 km pipeline. The pipeline will start being constructed in Afghanistan in the first months of the next year. The Afghan government has plans to generate at least 100 megawatts of power by using the TAPI gas. “The TAPI project will provide a total of 33 billion cubic meters of gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Afghanistan will take 500 cubic meters of gas during the first 10 years, one billion during the next 10 and 1.5 billion during the subsequent years. There will be three off shoot points within Afghanistan in Kandahar, Herat and Lashkargah. We are working on the exact business plan for the use of this natural gas,” he said the senior advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The role of China in the Afghan peace

The ambiguity of US goals, and the dichotomy between American actions and words in Afghanistan have seriously hurt the global credibility of the superpower. In addition to the majority of Afghans, the regional countries which initially backed the military presence of the US-led western coalition in Afghanistan now see the presence with skepticism, and even as a threat to their interests.
Although the United States accomplished its goals of intervening in Afghanistan in a very short span after toppling the Taliban regime, it later on created various pretexts to prolong its military presence. Some observers even see continued violence in Afghanistan despite American presence as “American game”. It is widely believed that the United States doesn’t want to fully prevent violence in Afghanistan in a bid to prolong its military presence; therefore, it is meaningless to expect the country to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan.
That being the case, Afghanistan has no option, but to seek alternative ways. One of the options is to encourage regional powers, particularly China, to help Afghanistan in its quest for peace. The continuation of violence and war in Afghanistan can threaten the interests of China which has major economic projects in the pipeline for the region, so that is why it considers a stable Afghanistan in its favor. By the same token, China’s role in Afghan peace is pivotal because it wields significant influence over Pakistan as the main backer of insurgents fighting in Afghanistan. There are even estimations that China has more influence over Pakistan than the United States has.
Unlike its long-held policy of staying away from getting involved in Afghan affairs, China has played an active role in Afghan issues over the last few years given their significance. One of the recent examples of China’s involvement in Afghanistan is the initiation of the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan Trilateral Meeting of foreign ministers, one of which will be held today in Beijing. This dialogue is a positive step only when the participants discuss the root causes of problems, and implement their commitments than deliver a ceremonial speech. Beijing has greater leverage on Islamabad it can use to press Pakistan to abandon its support for terrorists. Since instability in Afghanistan can threaten Chinese economic interests not only within Afghanistan but also in the entire region and that only a secure and stable Afghanistan serves Chinese interests, China can be trusted to play an intermediary role in, or facilitate Afghan peace.
>>> READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE "China’s role in Afghan peace" on
- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Ivo Toniut.

To resolve Kabul’s electricity shortage needed $ 20 million a year of Govt subsidies to run a new $ 335 million power plant no one has ever used

USAID paid over 300 million dollars for a Power Plant in Kabul no one is using
Steps are being taken to resolve Kabul’s electricity shortage problem by increasing output at thermal plant as the residents of Kabul are frustrated due to the lack of electricity every year from October to March 8-10 hours every day. Officials at the Tarakhil thermal power plant said that daily 250 megawatts of electricity will be added to the Kabul electricity grid. According to the officials by providing more fuel to this power plant, its power generation capacity will be doubled. This is the largest thermal power plant in the capital, and was built in the past few years with the help of over 300 million dollars from USAID. The plant consumes about sixty thousand liters of fuel in six hours, in order to produce 250-300 megawatts of electricity. Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, an energy supplying company, uses the plant in emergency situations and in winter. “In the first step, the Tarakhil thermal power system will be switched on and the capital’s electricity shortage problem will be solved and in case the problem is not solved then we will also turn on the thermal power plant of the northwest of the capital,” said Khowja Muzafar Siddiqi, Tarakhil thermal power plant manager. According to the officials the power plant is fully computerized. Whenever any problems occur at the plant the alarm activates, and the plant engineer will receive a message on his computer that will indicate what the problem is. “The technology that has been used in this plant is not used in other plants, here the technology is very advanced, and all the security and management issues has been considered in this plant,” said Samim Ahmad the Tarakhil thermal power plant technical manager. Officials at Da Breshna Sherkat said that in order to decrease electricity shortages in Kabul the plant must be active. Although, it is said that every kilowatt electricity from the thermal plant is about 40 Afghanis. “We run the plant from 4:30 p.m till 2:30 am because this time is the busiest time and ...” said .....

Monday, 25 December 2017

To eradicate poverty in Afghanistan is essential empowerment of women

By Kathleen Campbell, VicePresident for Programs at Women for Women International
About the author: Kathleen Campbell is the Vice President for Programs at Women for Women International. Prior to WfWI, Campbell was the Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs. Campbell, a Harvard Law School graduate, has over two decades of international experience managing development and humanitarian programs.
This article was first published on Central Asia Institute’s Journey of Hope 2017 Magazine.

In 2003, I moved to Kabul with my husband and our first child to work with a research institute. Our daughter was six-months old. Like many first-time mothers I knew nothing about looking after a baby. We wanted to hire a nanny who spoke English so I could communicate all my misguided knowledge about baby care. We interviewed a number of young women recommended to us. They had learned English in refugee camps in Pakistan, but they were inexperienced when it came to child care. Ultimately, we met with a lovely woman in her thirties. She didn’t speak any English. She picked up our daughter with ease and proceeded to answer, in Persian, our questions about what would she do if the child was crying. Finally, having kept our daughter quiet and amused, she turned to our translator and said: “ I have raised seven children, do they have any more questions?”

We hired Zeba on the spot.

Like Zeba, most Afghan women are incredibly resourceful and have important skills, yet social and economic barriers prevent them from reaching their full potential. Insecurity, persistent social norms, illiteracy, and lack of employment opportunities and access to markets prevent many Afghan women from formally contributing to Afghanistan’s economy.

The number of civilian deaths due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan hit a record high in 2017. According to the United Nations’ Afghanistan mission, the number of women casualties increased by 23 percent, an unprecedented level since 2001. Lack of security poses a threat to women’s economic empowerment as fewer families will back women’s public participation if they don’t feel they will be safe.

In addition to conflict, women also face harassment and social barriers that prevent them from being part of the formal economic sector. Research by Women and Children’s Legal Research Foundation showed that nine out of ten Afghan women living in seven provinces around the country have faced harassment. Surveyed women said they faced harassment in workplaces and educational institutions as well as on the streets. According to the Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan People, 74 percent of Afghans say women should have the right to work outside the home, however obstacles such as harassment prevent the vast majority from doing so.

Afghanistan also has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world and women are disproportionately impacted, largely due to six years of Taliban rule when girls’ schools were closed. As a result, according to The World Bank only 24% of Afghan women over the age of 15 can read and write. Without these skills, women are far less likely to access formal employment opportunities. Without security, safety, and literacy most Afghan women, especially those in rural areas, cannot access markets. As a result, less than 20 percent of Afghans surveyed say women contributes to their household income.

These obstacles not only violate women’s right to be economically empowered and self-sufficient, but also harm the country as a whole. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s per capita income is the lowest in South Asia. The country’s unemployment rate is at 40 percent and 36% of the country lives under the poverty line. This means more than one in three Afghans do not have enough money to buy food or cover other basic needs. The majority of this poverty is concentrated in rural areas where women face particularly high rates of social and economic exclusion.

The good news is that we already have the solution to decreasing and maybe even eradicating poverty: women. A study by McKinsey Global Institute shows that with women’s equal participation in the labor force, the global GDP could increase by 26 percent to $28 trillion dollars. Even if every country matched the gender parity rates of its “fastest growing neighborhood, global GDP could increase by up to $12 trillion in 2025,” the report argues. While the study doesn’t include Afghanistan, it shows that in doing so, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa regions could increase their GDP by up to 18 percent.

In addition to increasing the number of women in the labor force, we need to invest in decreasing inequalities in access to tools and resources for women who are already a part of it. For example, according to the International Labor Organization, women make more than 40 percent of the world’s agricultural force, however they control less than 20 percent of the land. They also often lack tools and resources such as fertilizer, seeds and consistent access to water. World Bank estimates show that if women had access to these “productive resources”, up to 150 million fewer people would face hunger every day. In Afghanistan, of employed women workers, the majority work in agriculture and livestock sectors, but despite legal rights for land ownership, only 10 percent of Afghan women own land independently. Increasing women’s control and access over resources and land can increase productivity in rural communities impacted by poverty.

Reports and statistics from Afghanistan and around the world prove what we at Women for Women International (WfWI) have known for nearly 25 years: stronger women build stronger economies and stronger nations. This is why we have been providing women survivors of conflict and war in eight countries and regions around the world with direct cash and an empowering training program that equips them with the skills they need to rebuild their lives. Through our yearlong program women not only learn vocational skills, but also gain business and numeracy skills and become aware of their health needs and human rights. As a result, their daily personal earnings increase from $0.34 at enrollment to $1.07 at graduation. While at the beginning of our program, 33 percent of the women we serve around the world worry about running out of food, by the end only six percent do. In addition to economic gain, women we serve learn about their rights and their involvement in financial decision-making at home increases by 28 percent.

In Afghanistan, we’ve served nearly 110,00 women since 2002. We’ve trained women in vocational skills like animal husbandry, agriculture and agribusiness, tailoring, and handicrafts. On average the monthly personal earnings of the women we serve in Afghanistan increases from less than three dollars at enrollment to more than $38 at graduation. These changes go beyond statistics. They impact real women in one of the hardest places on earth to be a woman.

Take for example Zarin. A 34-year old mother of five, she struggled in poverty and without access to jobs, but she always had big dreams for her children. She decided to join WfWI’s program after she learned about if from other women in her community. She already had some tailoring skills, but at the program she solidified them and learned numeracy and business skills as well as about her health and rights.

“During the year, I gained a lot of experience. I learned how to do business. I learned about women’s health and how to protect our health and be clean,” Zarin says.

Today Zarin has opened a tailoring shop in a crowded market in Kabul, something uncommon for Afghan women. She not only pays her eldest daughter’s university fees and supports her family but also employs six other women.

Zarin’s shop is a success and she dreams of expanding her shop and providing more women with employment opportunities. “When we make our own money, we don’t need to depend on men for anything.”

Zarin is not alone. During our fifteen years of experience in Afghanistan we’ve met many women who have proven themselves champions of their own lives and that of other marginalized women in their communities. From Zeba to Zarin, the women of Afghanistan are resilient, courageous, and capable. With the right tools and skills, they have the ability to pull their families, neighborhoods, and even country out of poverty. For sustainable change and to address poverty in Afghanistan, we have to prioritize Afghan women’s economic empowerment. They are the hope.

High caliber Russian company to complete construction of Machalgho dam in the eastern Paktia province of Afghanistan

The Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed a contract for the construction of the Machalgho dam, in Paktia province, with a Russian company to the value of about USD 23,000,000.
Energy and Water Ministry said the dam will be 47 meters high and will be one of the biggest dams in the country. Once complete it will irrigate over 3,000 acres of land. Construction of the dam started seven years ago, however, work came to a halt and the contract with the construction company was cancelled last year after it failed to complete the project on time. The dam has been built on the Jelga River in Paktia province. Work will however start soon by the Russian company that was awarded the contract. “The contract was terminated due to problems in speed and work quality,” at the ministry said. “The Paktia people really wanted this dam to be built and I think their demands will be fulfilled,” a local politician said.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Kazakhstan willing to invest in cereal warehouses in Afghanistan

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) of Afghanistan said that currently Afghanistan’s strategic warehouse capacity for cereal is estimated to be about 270,000 tons and that government warmly welcomes investors willing to invest in the establishment of cereal warehouses, especially for wheat. Afghan officials said that the establishment of storage facilities, especially for wheat, would help cut down on import costs of wheat that comes from central Asia. Kazakh media reported that Kazakhstan wants to invest in the establishment of wheat warehouses in the country. Afghanistan currently imports thousands of tons of wheat from Kazakhstan annually. However officials in Kazakhstan have not lodged an official request regarding investment in the cereal warehouse sector, but Afghan officials said that with the establishment of such storage facilities, Afghanistan will be able to cut down on import costs, especially that of wheat coming in from central Asian countries including Kazakhstan. “We need strategic reserve facilities to be built in the country, but to make it happen it must come from which address and source? This issue so far has not been discussed between the ministry of agriculture and with the Kazakh side,” said a spokesman for MAIL. Economic commentators say that if warehouses are established along the borders, the Afghan government will be able to decrease its expenditure on the importation of wheat and that it will also help with Afghanistan’s food safety programs.

Friday, 22 December 2017

German Defense Minister said the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in recent years was too rapid

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen
The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Mazar-e-Sharif City in the northern Balkh province. She said the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in recent years was too rapid. 
The German minister called for a longer-term commitment. Von der Leyen criticized the rapid reduction in forces since the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 but said the international community had now learned it needed to be more patient, the Reuters reported. "I haven't forgotten how it was at the beginning when we got out of ISAF too quickly with too big reduction in troop numbers," she said. She said everyone knew the security situation in Afghanistan remained tense. She added that Afghans continued to need support, advice and training from foreign soldiers. "There's still a lot to do but I'm convinced that we're going in the right direction with our mission there," the German minister said. "We'll need to have a lot of stamina - Afghanistan will occupy us for a long time yet," she said. US President Donald Trump announced a new open-ended policy for Afghanistan in August, authorizing an increase in US troop numbers to advise and train Afghan security forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations. At the peak of the ISAF mission at least 150,000 foreign soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan compared with almost 17,000 now - of which 10,000 are Americans. US officials are pressing Germany to send in more troops to Afghanistan as part of the increased international presence but say they do not expect any decisions until after the formation of a new German government. The German parliament voted last week to extend by three months Germany's military support for the Afghanistan mission to allow a new government to consider a longer-term extension.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Today Thu 21 Dec 2017 in a street of the beautiful Herat, Afghanistan 
#ForeignCurrency #ExchangeRates