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Afghanistan’s Mineral Reserves Far Exceed Original Estimates


More than $1 trillion dollars of untapped minerals have been identified in Afghanistan according to the United States Geological Society (USGS) and the Pentagon.  The new calculations announced this week include estimates of vast copper, gold, iron and cobalt deposits as well as an enormous reserve of lithium which could prove vital to bolstering Afghanistan’s economy destroyed under decades of war.  The USGS and the Pentagon based the new calculations from jointly conducted surveys. 

A Pentagon spokesman told reporters that the value of the minerals could exceed conservative estimates.  US Commander General David Petraeus was quoted in an interview with the New York Times over the weekend saying, “There is stunning potential here.  There are lots of ifs, of course, but I think the potentially it is hugely significant.” 

 “Not only identifying, but learning how to best tap Afghanistan’s natural riches is a vital step for the economic future of our country,” Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States Said Jawad who called the reports “encouraging.”  “Developed in the proper manner, untapped resources will translate to new job growth, a self-sustaining future, and a solid way for Afghanistan to continue contributing to the world market,” he said. 

While the finding is significant former Principal Geologist for the British Geographical Survey Stan Coats, who conducted work in Afghanistan for four years, cautions more investigation will be needed.  “Much more ground exploration, including drilling, needs to be carried out to prove these are deposits which can be worked,” he said.  Many of the deposits are located in regions safe enough to provide for ground exploration, including drilling.

The discovery is likely to generate an international bidding war for rights to dig.  The Aynak Copper Mine in Logar Province in northern Afghanistan was recently the site of world-wide attention when the Chinese won rights to develop the enormous plot of land.  Profit estimates for the Afghan Government could be as high as $1billion a year in taxes and fees alone for the rights to develop the Aynak Province.

Such riches could prove controversial.  Some experts suggest the potential wealth from these mines could spur the Taliban to fight harder to retain control of Afghanistan’s riches. 

Senior Afghan Official Jawad Omar was encouraging in Kabul, “The natural resources of Afghanistan will play a magnificent role in Afghanistan’s economic growth.  The past five decades have shown that every time new research takes place, it shows our natural reserves are far more than what was previously found.  This is a cause for rejoicing, nothing to worry about.” 




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