From the NY Times:
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.
The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.
While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.
“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”
The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.
“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.
We have already know about the Afghanistan lapis lazuli, better known as just lapis. It has become increasingly more costly since the Afghanistan war, mainly because it is harder to get the mineral. Afghan miners go far up into the mountains where the vast lapis deposits are and bring out the rough on mules and human packs. The best lapis in the world comes out of Afghanistan. I got my stash from a friend’s husband who has a good eye for jewelry.
Now what about all this lithium, iron, copper, cobalt, gold, etc? Supposedly trillions of dollars worth. How would a primitive country like Afghanistan ever develop to the point where some of these riches could be mined and distributed world wide? What would keep the Taliban and Al Quada from taking control of the wealth?
It sounds to me like if anything is done with these riches, the Americans out to put on their ugly American hat and simply be the big, bad watch dog. Besides, that war has cost us a small fortune. Pay backs are expensive. Royalties are expensive.