Rising global demand for cosmetics, marble and stainless steel is helping Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants in Afghanistan fund their increasingly violent insurgencies, according to an investigation by Global Witness.
The insurgent groups make millions of dollars annually from mining talc, chromite, and marble in the eastern part of Afghanistan.
The international NGO in a report on Tuesday estimates the Taliban earns $2.5 million to $10 million a year from mining talc alone.
It is unclear how much Islamic State’s local affiliate, which has fought and taken over mining areas from the Taliban in three districts of Nangarhar province, has managed to exploit the mines, according to Global Witness.
“The relationship between the Islamic State and mining is powerful and worrying, but it is only a case study for what is a much larger problem,” said Nick Donovan, a campaign director at Global Witness.
“Not just insurgent groups but also a host of other illegal, semi-legal and legal armed groups across the country benefit from mining. The Taliban in Nangarhar province demonstrate this with particular force.”
Global Witness cited unidentified people claiming that IS had brought in foreign engineers from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and installed heavy machinery at the mining sites. Phones are banned and locals are searched and monitored by the groups near the mines, according to the report.
“Talc is being extracted in the regions which are under the Taliban’s control, but their transport and exportation is being done through under government control areas,” said Naser Timori, researcher of Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA).
According to Global Witness, most of Afghanistan’s talc production is smuggled across to Pakistan at the Torkham border where it can eventually be shipped out to other markets.
“The relevant institutions should not be silent regarding the situation of mines [in the country], they can be called guilty from law’s perspective,” said Mohammad Zamir Zamani, a lawyer.
Calling the report as worrying, the Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish said that they will make efforts to ensure security of the mines in the country.
The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum refused to make a comment in this regard. Earlier, the Defense Ministry has also expressed concerns regarding the mining of minerals by the militant groups in the areas which are under control of the anti-government elements.