The minting of gold coins (asharfi) and commemorative coins has restarted after a two-year break due to a lack of office space for the Nepal Rastra Bank’s NRB Mint Division, which had been dismantled for the renovation of the Dharahara tower.
The Mint Division was relocated from Sundhara to a building owned by Nepal Aushadhi Limited in Babarmahal, where it has began minting asharfis (gold coins), according to Binod Raj Acharya, the division’s director.
The Mint Division was forced to transfer to Babarmahal after the government decided to repair earthquake-damaged Dharahara through the Nepal Reconstruction Authority.
According to Acharya, they began minting gold coins from their temporary office in Babarmahal in order to preserve ancient coin minting abilities.
“We were able to mint asharfis with the technical support of Kathmandu University’s Mechanical Engineering Department,” he said, “by maintaining the machines that were damaged by the earthquake and accumulated rust because they had not been in use for a long time.”
The equipment were brought for the then Minting Department during the time of Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher.
The Department became a subsidiary of Nepal Rastra Bank in 1983, and it began minting coins in minor values of one, five, ten, twenty-five, and fifty paisas, as well as Rs. 1 to Rs. 5.
Despite the fact that asharfi trial manufacturing began on Friday, Acharya claimed that commercial production of gold and silver asharfis, as well as souvenir coins, will commence in mid-November.
He said that the division has enough machines for commercial coin minting. “NRB’s current administration is committed to effectively operating existing machinery while also adopting innovative technology,” he said.
“Regular coins can be issued if high-tech equipment can be utilized,” he stated.
He added, “We are also intending to create souvenir coins of the Chhath event as soon as possible.”
He remarked, “Work on the physical infrastructure for setting up machines and maintaining them is in full swing.”
The division’s main responsibilities include minting and selling gold coins, medallions, and commemorative coins, purchasing raw gold and silver from government offices, selling and managing the circulation of coins with denominations of Rs. 1 and Rs. 2, and quality assurance of gold, silver, and other metals, as needed.
However, at the NRB’s Mint Division, printing from new and old machines and labor has been limited to souvenir coins, badges, and medals.
The Mint Division, which stopped minting coins about two decades ago (2060 BS), is now in charge of alternative currencies, such as souvenir coins, asharfis, and medals. Nepal has been importing Rs. 1 and Rs. 2 coins in circulation for the past few years, despite possessing adequate skills and technology.
Of course, the fact that Nepal, which once exported coins to other countries, is now importing them is ironic. The first coin of Nepal was introduced by King Manadev of the Lichhavi period, who issued Manank, Nepal’s first coin. However, Nepalese coins are now only made on a sporadic basis.
According to Acharya, minting can now be done on particular days, events, festivals, or occasions as requested by the government and commercial sector.
“After the construction of a new division building at Sanothimi in Bhaktapur is completed, there is a plan to produce coins on a regular basis,” he stated.
“The NRB’s management has also been supportive in this regard,” he added.
“In Nepal, machines worth millions of rupees that produce coins have practically come to a halt. We won’t need to go abroad to bring out coins if we use them properly,” he remarked.
He stated that the office currently has 19 employees, including four technicians. He went on to say that abilities were passed on to the next generation with the support of the office’s retired technicians. Due to the halt in coin minting, the recruitment of staff, particularly those trained in minting, has come to a halt.