Hidden Gems (2014): Afghanistan is not only a country in perpetual turmoil, but also a geological miracle. Can they now harness 1,000 billion Euros worth of natural resources in order to lift the nation out of poverty?
For similar stories, see:
The Taliban Are Determined To Take Back Control Of Afghanistan (2012)
Al Qaeda’s Fight In Afghanistan
Meet the Latest Enemy of American Forces in Afghanistan – Language!
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“We have a lot of requests from Europe because the emeralds from Afghanistan are the best in the world”, Raphael says. The Frenchman first came to Afghanistan to train Afghan security services, before venturing into the emerald trade. He sees a huge opportunity to develop a market that could easily increase in value twenty or thirty fold – but the obstacles are not inconsiderable. Just to get to the mines Raphael has to travel the 150km from Kabul to Panjshir, right through Taliban kidnap country. When he gets there he finds an industry in the dark ages, where homemade pyrotechnics are exploded in poorly dug mine shafts, killing many miners and ruining the quality of up to 75% of the stones they dig. “If you see the damage being done to these stones… so much is lost”, Yama Torabi from Integrity Watch Afghanistan explains. Meanwhile, the Afghan government remains hopelessly out of touch with the industry. Every year Panjshir emeralds generate 50 million Euros, but 80% leave the country illegally. With a third of the nation living below the poverty line and foreign troops withdrawing taking a lot of international aid with them, capitalising on the country’s natural resources has never been more vital.
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