Afghan miners’ bad work conditions

This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

For weeks Washington has been debating whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. However, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are calling on lawmakers to rethink policy and their approach to the wars.

From the BBC today:

Inside a crumbling Afghan coal mine

Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Friday, 25 June 2010 13:02 UK

By Quentin Sommerville
BBC News, Pul-e Khumri, northern Afghanistan

The coal wagon rattles along, descending sharply under the hills of Pul-e Khumri, deep into the mine.

At about 100m (328ft) down, the tunnel narrows and it is striking how primitive it all looks.

The roof is held up by bent and twisted wooden stakes which look like they were put in many hundreds of years ago rather than 60 years ago, when the mine was first dug.

It was the Soviets who first discovered Afghanistan’s huge mineral wealth: coal, gold, silver, iron and copper ore, and more besides.

Little safety

More recent surveys say it could be worth trillions of dollars.

But decades of war mean that these vast natural resources have hardly been touched.

And in the Pul-e Khumri coal mine, nothing much has changed since the Soviets left.

Down inside the mine, at 300m below the hills, the miners scrape the coal from the rock, and fill the wagons.

Except for a ventilation fan there is no mechanical or electrical equipment. And there’s little safety gear either – everybody is absolutely filthy.

The air is cool, until the shaft takes a turn, then the heat becomes intense.

It is very hard, physical, work but there is no shortage of coal. It glistens in the wall, at times it pours from the rock face.

‘Dig by hand’

But Afghanistan has neither the means nor the money to get it out of the ground.

Standing in the gloom, the air is thick with coal dust, one miner, breathing heavily, said: “I’ve been working here for the last 12 years. I work by hand. We push the carts by hand and you can see that we even dig by hand.”

The half dozen workers here have it tough. They are bare-footed and stripped to the waist as they hack at the seams with pick axes.

The coal is a fine powder, and the dust covers them, blackening their teeth and covering their bodies.

“Things were better during the 1980s,” explained another man.

“We had wood. We had equipment. Now we don’t have anything, and what we do have, doesn’t work. We have nothing,” he said.

Nothing that is, except huge mineral wealth, which Afghanistan’s neighbours, and the rest the world, want to get their hands on.

It is upon exiting the mine, stepping into the bright sunshine, that the problems confronting those wishing to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth become blindingly obvious.

The mine is in the middle of a desert. For miles and miles around there are barren hills and barely any roads. Certainly no paved roads reach the mine.

Backbreaking work

And, on the other side of the hills, are the Taliban. Potential investors in the mine have been to scared to visit.

And there are other worries too. Afghanistan’s deep and widespread corruption means its people may not benefit from its natural riches.

“There’s evidence of corruption already,” says political analyst and parliamentary candidate Haroun Mir.

“The [contract for] the biggest copper mine in the region was awarded without transparency.

“There are other small mines too that were awarded to people linked to political power in Afghanistan.

“Business and politics in Afghanistan, are interlinked, you cannot become a successful businessman if you are not involved in political power,” he said.

At the mine, the men bring more coal to the surface, straining as they push the heavy iron wagons full of coal.

At the end of the narrow gauge rail line, the wagon is tipped, and the coal falls to a huge black pile in the sand.

It has been back-breaking work for the miners to get it this far – but given the challenges facing Afghanistan, this may have been the easy part.

In the span of barely a week, a second Kentucky coal miner was killed Thursday in an underground mining operation, bringing to 39 the number of coal miners killed in the US so far this year: here.

Mother of Canadian soldier to Harper: ‘Withdraw from Afghanistan now’: here.

USA: Public Souring on Afghanistan War: here.

Nine Years On, Only 41 Percent of Americans Believe US Can Win in Afghanistan: here.

Tom Engelhardt on “The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s”: here.

Alliance With Warlords Makes War Strategy Hopeless: here.

A top Polish military official warned on Thursday that the US-led war effort in Afghanistan faced “strategic collapse”.

An anti-war campaigner has won a key High Court victory over the government in her bid to end British involvement in the torture cells of Afghanistan: here.


5 thoughts on “Afghan miners’ bad work conditions

  1. Free SPC Bradley Manning, Arrested for Exposing U.S. War Crimes in Iraq & Afghanistan

    End the Occupations Now

    Stop the Murder and Abuse of Civilians by U.S. and NATO Military

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    A 22 year old U.S. soldier, Bradley Manning, has been arrested on suspicion of leaking classified combat video footage and secret documents to a whistle-blower website. SPC Manning, from Potomac, Maryland, is assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, located east of Baghdad. SPC Manning was arrested in Iraq and is currently being held in Kuwait pending further investigations. The WikiLeaks website posted a video which shows U.S. occupation forces shooting civilians on a Baghdad street during 2007.

    The video, which was filmed by the U.S. military, shows a horrendous massacre of unarmed civilians on the ground by a helicopter gunship, accompanied by crude and insensitive remarks by the crew and ground troops associated with the assault. A Reuters reporter and two children were also wounded in the assault. The Pentagon has not questioned the validity or authenticity of the video.

    Two U.S. soldiers who were part of the ground unit which took part in the attack, Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord, have written and published a letter of apology to the Iraqi people for their actions.

    But those who are really responsible for this war crime, the U.S. military, far from apologizing have chosen to track down and arrest the person whom they believe released the video, Bradley Manning.

    If Bradley Manning did courageously leak the video, he is to be commended for exposing a war crime, not punished. According to international law, and even the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), combatants are required to report violations of rules of combat outlined in the Geneva Conventions first laid down in 1950. And those rules of combat explicitly list the intentional shooting of unarmed civilians as a war crime.

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    Many of the mainstream press and other apologists for U.S. and NATO wars and occupations have attacked Bradley Manning as a threat to national security because the video was classified. It has long been known that the U.S. government routinely classifies not only information directly associated with weapons and tactics, but anything that might make them look bad, or call into question their attempts to justify unjust wars and occupations.

    There have also been reports that other classified documents and videos may have been released by Manning. The existence of such material shows that this case goes beyond a single war crime incident. It points to a broad program of criminal planning and conspiracy to commit or to cover up war crimes by the U.S. Military.

    Progressive and peace-loving people everywhere must rally to defend Bradley Manning, and condemn the war crimes which he is accused of revealing.
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    Petition Text:

    To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Dana K. Chipman, Congressional leaders, U.N. Secretary General Ban, members of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. member states

    cc: Major media representatives, International Red Cross

    Free Bradley Manning!!

    End the Wars and Occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan!

    Bring the Troops Home Now!

    Bring to Justice the U.S. Perpetrators of War Crimes, including the Pentagon

    I am writing to demand that Bradley Manning, a courageous soldier deployed in Iraq, be immediately be released from custody, and that any and all charges against him be immediately dropped and that any administrative or military sanctions against him be suspended.

    Bradley Manning is suspected of being responsible for the leak of a classified video filmed by the U.S. military, which shows in graphic detail the massacre of civilians by a U.S. helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007.

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    I therefore further demand that the United States stop its aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home immediately.

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