Tribal leaders near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border claim Taliban terrorists are mining gold in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistani engineers, an allegation that the jihadist group and the local government deny.
The U.S. valued Afghanistan’s mineral resources at about $1 trillion in 2010.
Pajhwok Afghan News reports that the Taliban has found gold in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, located close to the international boundary that divides the country from Pakistan.
“The Zarkashan Mountain which contains a gold mine is being dug by the Taliban with the help of Pakistani engineers,” Haji Obaidullah, a tribal elder in Ghazni’s Maqur district, told Pajhwok, noting that the gold mine has been under the terrorist group’s control for several years now.
Echoing Obaidullah and other residents, Haji Gheyasuddin, another tribal leader in the region, also told Pajhwok that the Taliban had conquered the Maqur areas that contained gold mines.
Mohammad Arif Noori, a spokesman for the governor of Ghazni, dismissed the allegations as false, saying the Taliban could not extract gold from the Zarkashan mine.
“There are no Pakistanis in the area, and the mine is under no threat to be looted because extracting a mineral needs advanced machines and huge amounts of money which the Taliban do not have and Pakistanis cannot bring them,” the spokesman told Pajhwok Afghan News.
A spokesman for the Taliban also denied that the group is extracting gold from the mine.
“Taliban are not involved in extracting this mine, it is extracted by local people, and we do not interfere because the people who are working there are poor,” Zabihullah Mujahid, said the mine was being extracted by local people.
In its latest assessment of the Afghan war, the Pentagon conceded that the Taliban and other terrorist groups generate funds through illicit mining.
Pentagon and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban jihadists and their allies, namely the Haqqani Network, something that Islamabad denies.
Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who is informally advising U.S. President Donald Trump on Afghanistan, told the New York Times (NYT) last year that some of the country’s most abundant mineral deposits are in areas controlled by the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s neighbor China, which has expressed interest in harnessing Afghanistan’s mineral deposits, reportedly reached a deal with the Taliban that allows Beijing to mine without worrying about the safety of its workers.
Various analysts have cautioned that deteriorating security conditions, primarily at the hands of the Afghan Taliban, and a lack of reliable transportation infrastructure are hurdles to mining minerals in Afghanistan.