July 9, 2009:
Illegal mining of gems (emeralds, rubies, topaz and tourmaline) is earning the Pakistani Taliban $100,000 a week. Afghanistan and Pakistan contain a third of the worlds emeralds, and a large percentage of other gems as well. But the mines in the tribal territories of Pakistan have been closed since the 1990s because of lawsuits, violence and government mismanagement. But earlier this year, as the Taliban drove government officials out of the area, they reopened some of the larger mines. The miners get to keep most of the proceeds from the gems they found, but the Taliban took a third, and this buys arms and other equipment, with which to fight the Pakistani security forces. But as the army moves further into the tribal territories, the mines will be closed again, at least until the government gets it act together and reopens them.