TALIBAN in Swat have taken over emerald mines in the area and are operating the business. The mines produce emeralds of international quality and had been under the control of the Pakistani government in the past.
Taking advantage of the recent ceasefire between militants and the government in the region, the Taliban have taken over these mines.
The mines in the Pak-Afghan border region are said to hold the largest known deposits of emeralds in sub-continent of South Asia.
A senior Taliban commander told the BBC that ‘it is for the benefit of the public that we have reopened the mines.’ The commander added that the mines were open for anyone to work in provided they follow the rules laid down by the Taliban.
The emerald mines of Swat are located in the mountains that surround the main town of Mingora and cover an area of nearly 8 kilometers.
Despite the high prices of these stones in the international market, workers at the site told the BBC their average daily wage was only about 400 rupees ($5) per person because the Taliban also took a cut for themselves out of the workers’ wages.
Some workers said that it was still a very good deal because all these resources were going to waste earlier.
Taliban commanders also see this as a positive move in light of the benefits it offers to the local workforce. A Taliban commander said that it was a wonderful opportunity for the unemployed and poverty stricken people of the area.
According to the terms of the deal, the Taliban take one-third of the yield from all of the miners and the costs are shared equally by the Taliban and the miners.
However, the Taliban say that they are not directly involved in the mining operations themselves.
So far the government has not contested the Taliban control of the mines despite the fears that the funds from emerald mining are likely to give a massive financial boost to the Taliban.
Wednesday, 25 Mar, 2009 (Dawn)
Taliban tap into Swat’s emeralds
LAHORE: As the NWFP government struggles to get approval for a peace deal from the centre – the Taliban in Swat have taken over operations in the valley’s emerald mines, which produce jewels of international quality and were previously controlled by the government. Located in the mountains that ring Mingora, the mines – along with the Panjshir mines in Afghanistan – hold the largest known deposits of emeralds in South Asia. BBC News has reported that the Taliban overtook operations four months ago. “It is for the benefit of the public that we have reopened the mines,” a senior Taliban commander told the BBC. “They are open to anybody who wishes to mine them as long as they follow our rules.” When fully operational, the mines yielded a quarter of a million carats of emeralds between 1978 and 1988. The last official estimate put the projected yield at about 13.2 million carats. Gemstone dealers say that most emeralds range from just under one carat to just over five. Prices range from $1,000 to more than $100,000 for a cut stone. However, workers at the site told the BBC their average daily wage was only about Rs 400 per person. “It’s still a good deal as previously all this was going to waste,” said one worker. Taliban commanders too are positive about its benefits. According to the terms of the deal, the Taliban take one-third of the yield of each set of miners. The costs are shared equally by the Taliban and the miners. The group says it is not directly involved in the operations themselves. But the rules, which include amputation for theft and strict adherence to sharia, mean only those with strong Taliban sympathies are allowed to operate. So far the government has made no move to contest the Taliban’s control of the mines. daily times monitor (25 March 2009)