DELTA GEOGRAPHIC

photojournalist Beb C. REYNOL

Afghanistan Coal Mine

The Cost for Coal in Afghanistan

For nearly three decades, Afghanistan has experienced only one succession of conflicts: the Soviet occupation, the Afghan civil war, the rise and fall of the Taliban and today their return. These events ruined the economic development of Afghanistan and eroded the vitality of its population. Coal, which is abundant in Afghanistan, can be an essential fuel used for the production of electricity, a basic need in the Central Asian nation.

During the Soviet occupation from 1979, they sent their own engineers to run a large-scale production of the natural resource. I visited a particular mine difficult of access due to its geographical location, at 12 kilometers northeast from Pol-e-Khomli, in central Afghanistan. Until their departure in 1989, the production at the mine employed more than 2000 workers who extracted coal, considered one of the best in the country. The 150 miners employed today hardly cover the vast site of hundreds of galleries abundant of the black gold.

Often working at a depth of more than 360 meters deep, the miners extract the mineral with only shovels and pickaxes in hand, battery powered lamps on top of their heads, and old equipment once imported from Czechoslovakia. Intense heat, total darkness and the risk of explosion from methane gas make coalmining very difficult and dangerous.

The local demand for coal is far from profitable. Still lacking of major infrastructures such as reliable transportation and security, the Afghan government is unable to exploit the fossil fuel. As the present war against the Taliban wages on, the country seems to be losing grip on its most wanted resource.

Beb C. Reynol, Pol-i-Khomli - 2005.

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THE COST FOR COAL IN AFGHANISTAN

Workers shovel coal dust
Karkar, Afghanistan

Mining in Afghanistan had very little benefits for the country torn by war and insurgency. Investors are rare, the mountainous landscape presents serious challenges and workers extract the coal with shovels.