ISLAMABAD: An eight-year ban on excavation has taken its toll on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) mining industry, while springing into action organised gangs who are now taking advantage of the void and pushing the remaining few legitimate players out of business.
The ban, originally imposed by the provincial government, was overturned this August through an Ordinance. However, the lifting of sanctions came packaged with conditions the mining industry refused to accept, driving the Frontier Mine Owners’ Association to the Peshawar High Court to obtain a stay order against the decision.
“Over 80% mines out of the total 1,300 are on the verge of collapse,” said the Frontier Mine Owners’ Association-KP (FMOA-KP).
However, the association’s displeasure is not just at the virtual shutting down of mines. Its situation is aggravated by the illegal mining activities that are now thriving unabated, said FMOA President Sher Bandi Khan Marwat.
“The government is responsible for the current illegal mining of precious gems and semi-precious stones and other minerals as the ban slapped in 2008 encouraged organised gangs to continue their illegal business,” Marwat told The Express Tribune.
“Illegal mining of precious gems and semi-precious stones in Kohistan area is no secret.”
He also named Chitral and Swat as areas where illegal mining gangs have always been a threat to the tax-paying mine owners.
According to the FMOA president, the Ordinance not only closed the doors for foreign investment but it also created immense hurdles for the people already in the business. “All the measures taken by the department after the promulgation of the Ordinance are against the spirit of natural justice,” Marwat further said.
Earlier, a director in the Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Company (PGJDC) also protested against the government’s failure in controlling illegal mining in different parts of the province.
“Emerald and precious pink topaz are illegally mined in Swat and Mardan and traded in the province,” Atif Rashid Khawaja told The Express Tribune in April this year.
On the other hand, Minister for Mines and Mineral Development Anisa Zeb, while defending the Ordinance, said that it was promulgated in the interest of the province and its people.
She told The Express Tribune that the Ordinance would help put an end to the monopoly of a few people over the mining industry.
Referring to the objections raised by FMOA over the Ordinance, the minister assured that she was willing to have open, one-on-one discussions with the association to address its issues.
She said that some complaints about illegal mining are unfounded and lack substantiation. However, the minister said that her department was making efforts to counter the illegal mining mafia.
Courtesy : Express Tribune