Service trials

Coal Mining


Looking at the situation eyed by SYMIN in Afghanistan, the coal mining sites in the province of Baghlan at the Dudkash and Karkar deposits used to be a fully operational coal mine in the 1970s with railroad tracks, before the war situation caused it to be informalised and everything is being done manually now.
One can easily imagine, though, the mine to become a Large-Scale Mining (LSM) again, as coal is typically a bulk product, to be part of a regional or national energy mix. This is not to say, however, that the coal mining at the deposits should not be monitored using the VHR-imagery, as major environmental problems (e.g. dust, acid mine drainage) could be caused by the actual operations.

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Ruby Mining

The SYMIN ruby mining site at Jagdalek used to be legal until around 2004 with open markets in Kabul – Afghanistan being recognised as a land with extra-ordinary gem production – but now indeed the mining is informal. The SYMIN monitoring of the operations at Jagdalek could assist in a (future) certification of the end products according to the prescriptions of the Responsible Jewellery Council which sets standards for ethical, labour, environmental and managerial criteria. As market access and market value would be greatly enhanced by certification, SYMIN could help promote this traditionally important sector of the Afghan economy.
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Gold Mining

Gold recovery plant

The gold mining site at Nooraba/Samti is located in the North of Afghanistan on the Panj River, the border river with Tajikistan. A licensed mining company is operating in the area but informal, artisanal mining is performed by the local population. Separation of the gold from the mined ore is done mechanically – not chemically, using mercury or cyanide as in e.g. South America –but using a lot of water and causing large amounts of silt affecting the scarce reserves of clear water in Afghanistan.
ASM gold mining
SYMIN monitoring of the operation from this perspective and also to check illegal transportation of the gold to Tajikistan – a concern for which the government of Tajikistan has asked the EU to help protect its border with Afghanistan – would thus be useful for both countries. Gold mining companies may wish to make sure not to use conflict-financing gold by using he OECD guidance on conflict and high-risk areas. The SYMIN monitoring may be able to facilitate this due diligence process. Unless the licensed mining company is industrial in scale and member of the WGC, it would be less so for the World Gold Council, as the WGC does not address informal gold mining nor does it look at environmental risks. It focuses on the conflict aspects of industrial mining operations. With the (on average) rising gold prices in the current global economy, well-monitored and therefore taxable gold production could be important for both the Afghan economy and the government.

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Chromite mining in Logar Province

Chromite is a strategic mineral for the metallurgic and refractory industries. It is found in large deposits in Afghanistan, amongst others in the Logar Province, South of Kabul. While it would be typically a form of Large Scale Mining and was licensed by the Government of Afghanistan in 1970s, over the past years and due to the instability and lack of effective governance chromite is being extracted and exported illegally from these deposits, so far according to the Ministry of Mines. The chromite is smuggled to Pakistan, sometimes with violence and bribery used against officials, so the government is not only losing revenue, but is also confronted with an additional source of instability. The government is committed to formalise and license chromite mining deposits to registered companies.

Greater Kabul Area Quarries

Quarry near Kabul

SYMIN is also asked to assist the Ministry of Mines with monitoring the quarrying of aggregate, clay, sand, gravel, dolomite and limestone, in the Greater Kabul Area. It is typically an ASM sector, but of indispensable socio-economic function in the country. EO detection of the location and extent of these activities is therefore very useful and the area round Kabul will of course allow for easy verification of the satellite imagery.
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