- Published: 21 August 2009 21 August 2009
Many mining activities in Afghanistan are conducted on a small-scale basis, although some larger, more modern operations are in a few locations. Presently, there are only two or three operations in the country cutting slabs to international standards; sector-wide, outdated processing methods and machinery continues to lead to a high degree of waste –in some cases, as high as 80 percent.
Small-scale quarrying operations typically involve manual digging of pits with shovels and loading straight onto trucks (usual capacity, seven tons) such as is done along the Chelsetoon River in Kabul.
Larger-scale operations, such as those on the Paghman River west of Kabul, use front-end loaders and processing plants equipped with screens and crushers for oversize material.
Crushed rock aggregate is produced from hard-rock quarries throughout the country. In the greater Kabul area, there are many quarries extracting Proterozoic Marble, Gneiss, Schist and Amphibolite.
There is a wide variety of marble in Afghanistan currently extracted from quarries in Badakhshan, Balkh, Bamyan, Helmand, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Logar, Faryab, Wardak, Nangarhar, Paktia, Parwan and Samangan.
In the past, quarries were active at the large limestone and dolomite resources in Badakhshan Province. For example, the Sabz quarry worked a lower carboniferous limestone resource estimated at some 13 million tons. There are also limestone resources in Baghlan, Bamyan and Herat provinces.
Marble is also worked for crushed rock aggregate in Badakhshan, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Wardak and Nangarhar provinces. Often in these operations, a lack of production expertise and plant maintenance results in poor quality aggregate with an excessive proportion of flaky and low-strength particles.
The white marble extracted in Herat and Nangahrar has been favorably compared to Carrara marble. The highest quality deposits currently in operation are listed by province:
Kabul province: Proterozoic marble is quarried at Ghazak, Hazare Baghal, Kariz-Amir, Pul-e-Charkhi, Qalamkar, and Tara Kheel. The Kariz-Amir marble occurs 40 kilometers north of Kabul, and consists of granular white, rarely grey-yellow marble.
The Ghazak marble (Ghazak Black) is a popular fine-grained, black marble that occurs 32 km east of Kabul.
Twenty one AMGPA member marble companies currently employ 524 people in Kabul province, with quarry operations primarily supplying local marble processors, with the end user being local construction companies.
Logar province: Proterozoic marble is quarried in Awbazak, Dehnow and Mohammad Agha. Awbazak marble is bioclastic and brown in color; Dehnow marble is brecciated and brown in color; and Mohammad Agha marble is black and white in color.
Wardak province: The Proterozoic Maydan marble occurs near Maydan Shar and consists of grey and dark grey marble beds up to 450 meters thick, interbedded with schist. The Maydan marble mines are well known, with five working areas in a 10- to 12-kilometer outcrop worked for the past 40 years.
Badakhshan province: The Silurian-Devonian Bini-Kama marble consists of medium and coarsely crystalline marble; the resource is estimated to be 13 million tons.
Herat province: The Proterozoic Chesht-i-Sharif marble occurs 120 kilomters east of Herat city and consists of a finely crystalline marble white to a light green in color.
Twelve AMGPA member marble companies currently employ 280 people in Herat province, with customers split among local processing plants, as well as Middle Eastern and Asian buyers of marble blocks.
Nangarhar province: The Proterozoic Khogiani marble occurs 35km southwest of Jalalabad and consists of a white marble known as Afghan White.
Some of the best quality marble from Afghanistan is “onyx marble”. Onyx is a banded variety of chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline form of quartz. The Afghan onyx may, in fact, be a variety of aragonite (calcium carbonate) called travertine. However, the traditional name of onyx remains in use to this day. Afghan onyx is valued for its color banding ranging from white to yellow, green or brown. Afghan onyx is quarried in several provinces including Bamyan, Helmand and Faryab.
The Chesht and Khogiani marbles are currently worked for dimension stone and have been favourably compared to Carrara marble, an Italian marble recognized as one of the best-quality marbles in the world.
Twelve AMGPA member marble companies currently employ 294 people in Nangarhar province, with quarry operations primarily supplying local and Pakistani processors, plus customers in China and Kuwait.
Balkh Province: Two AMGPA member marble companies currently employ 52 people in Balkh province, with quarry operations primarily supplying local retail and construction customers.
A map of Afghanistan's marble provinces, is in the Afghantistan Geological Society's "Marbles of Afghanistan," available online from the British Geological Survey.
. AMGPA can be found at www.amgpa.af.
This article was produced with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development.
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