PESHAWAR: Restrictions on the supply of explosives for mining activities due to security reasons in Mohmand Agency has adversely affected the production of marble and other minerals, say officials of the Fata mines and mineral directorate and mine owners.

A senior official at the Fata law and order department told Dawn that the explosives might fall into the wrong hands in the region and therefore, the local administration had to put restrictions on the supply of explosives.

He said explosives were being provided only to mine leaseholders in Mohmand Agency to prevent their misuse.

“Earlier, there was no check on the supply of explosive material used in mining activities. The people used to purchase explosives from the open market. It was necessary to formulate some guidelines to avoid its misuse,” he said.

Insist government’s move adversely affecting marble production and supply in Mohmand Agency

The official said the authorities purchased explosives from specified manufacturing units, including the army-run Wah Ordnance Factory, and then handed it over to Frontier Corps (FC) for onward distribution among notified leaseholders.

Earlier, he said, the people after purchasing explosives stored it, but now they could not keep the stock.

He said the authorities provided explosives on case to case basis and every genuine leaseholder could purchase it from the FC.

The directorate has issued around 40 licences for exploration of marbles in Mohmand Agency, where there are huge deposits of the best quality marble.

Officials in the Fata directorate of mines and minerals said restrictions on the supply of explosives had put negative impact on marble mining in Mohmand Agency, where huge deposits of marble existed.

The restriction on the supply of explosives for blasting in marble mines was imposed one year ago.

An official at Ekkaghund check post said the transportation of marble from Mohmand Agency was brought down from 150 trucks daily to 80 trucks after the authorities put restrictions on explosives for mining activities. The directorate has deputed its inspector at Ekkaghund check post to collect duty on marble from truckers.

Mohmand Agency assistant political agent Haseeb Rehman said extensive use of explosives in exploration process resulted in large scale destruction of marbles, which was one of the major factors that forced the administration to restrict use of explosives.

He said leaseholders did not have technical persons to properly plant explosives in mines to avoid wastage of marbles during exploration.

“Leaseholders instead of geologists have employed non-technical persons for blasting in mines, which not only resulted in wastage of marble deposits but sometimes it also put lives of workers at risk,” he said.

The assistant political agent said recently, 10 labours were killed in Ziarat mines due to accidental blast in a mine.

He said the administration did not provide explosives to non-leaseholders in order to avoid its misuse.

Haseeb Rehman said leaseholders instead of adopting scientific methods still used old methods like massive use of explosives for exploration of marble and other minerals.

He said there were disputes among the tribes and mine owners which also affected production of mines.

Officials admit that widespread use of explosives in mining activities is resulting in wastage of marble.

A study conducted by the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority Peshawar shows that from 75 to 85 per cent of marble is wasted due to huge and unplanned blasting in mines.

An official of the authority said losses could be brought down to 45 per cent if leaseholders adopted the latest mining techniques.

“Machines used for marble mining are expensive while explosives are cheaper so the people use blasting methods in Pakistan, particularly in Fata,” he said.

The people associated with marble industry criticised restriction of supply of explosives for mining and said it had affected production and supply.

They said a large number of workers had lost employment since the administration placed restriction on explosives.

Ahmad Shah, a leaseholder, said the administration should provide alternative of the blasting method if use of explosives caused wastage of marbles.

“This is a lame excuse. Political authorities have security concerns and imposed restriction on explosives,” he said.

This is worth mentioning that the government had imposed ban on the supply of different kinds of fertilisers, especially ammonium nitrite, to various areas of Fata, including Bajaur and Kurram agencies, following reports that militants were using these substances to make improvised explosive devices in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2015



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