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Afghan Minister Cracks Down On Illegal Mining

Afghan miners drill into rock in a makeshift emerald mine.

Afghan miners drill into rock in a makeshift emerald mine.

KABUL -- The Afghan mines minister is calling for increased government efforts to stop the illegal trading of Afghanistan's mineral wealth, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said at a press conference in Kabul on July 1 that many of the country's mines are being illegally excavated and the output is being smuggled out of the country, mostly through Pakistan.

Shahrani called for additional security at established mines as well as the prevention of illegal digging by unauthorized groups.

The minister also highlighted the need for foreign investment in Afghanistan's mining industry. He said the right to manage Afghanistan's mines will be determined in a tender.

Shahrani said such a strategy will not only generate revenue for Afghanistan but also develop the country's mining sector and create jobs.

On June 25, the Afghan government hosted a London conference aimed at attracting foreign investment in the country's mining sector.

Recent media reports have highlighted Afghanistan's potentially immense mineral wealth after a U.S. government memo reported by "The New York Times" on June 13 said Afghanistan has nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits.

It said Afghanistan could turn into the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a metal essential to produce batteries for electronic devices.

According to the Afghan Constitution, the government owns the country's mines and other natural resources.