The former Afghan soldiers turning to gem mining to survive – by Kern Hendricks (Al Jazeera – August 18, 2023)

In remote Nuristan province, some who lost their jobs after the Taliban takeover are now working in artisanal mines to support their families amid a struggling economy.

Nuristan, Afghanistan – Like a crack of thunder, a deep blast echoes down a tree-lined valley a few kilometres from Parun, the capital of the northeastern Afghan province of Nuristan. At the base of a rocky hillside, smoke and chunks of rock spew from the mouth of a low tunnel. Some of the debris reaches the edge of a glassy river which runs through a small valley, causing ripples on the water’s surface.

Sheltering to one side of the tunnel entrance is Abdul Qader Abid. As the final pieces of shrapnel clatter to a standstill, he squints into the darkness of the tunnel. Rising, he wraps a green shawl around his mouth and nose, and heads into the billowing dust. There’s a payday glimmering in the rubble, and he’s eager to find it.

Abid, a stalky man in his mid-thirties with a neatly-trimmed beard and striking green eyes, walks gingerly, small stones crunching underfoot. After less than 30 metres (98 feet), the tunnel opens into a large chamber nearly double his height.

In early 2022, Abid and his fellow miners leased a plot of land to mine and have been working there for nearly six months. Tunnelling into the hillside has been slow work and the shaft is still shallow.

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