US discovers stunning mineral wealth in Afghanistan – report

2010-06-14 08:26

US geologists have discovered nearly one trillion dollars’ worth of

untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including vast reserves of copper and

lithium, the New York Times reported.

The deposits, which also include huge veins of iron, gold, niobium

and cobalt, are enough to turn the battle-scarred country into one of the

world’s leading mining exporters, senior US government officials told the

Times.

Afghanistan’s potential lithium deposits are as large as those of

Bolivia, which currently has the world’s largest known lithium reserves, the

Times said.

Lithium is a key mineral used in rechargeable batteries, as well as

everything from cell phones and laptops to electric cars.

Afghanistan has so much of it that it could become the “Saudi

Arabia of lithium,” according to an internal Pentagon memo quoted by the

newspaper.

The iron and copper deposits are large enough to make Afghanistan

one of the world’s top producers, US officials said.

“There is stunning potential here,” General David Petraeus, head of

the US Central Command, told the newspaper. “There are a lot of ifs, of course,

but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” Jalil

Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines, told the Times.

A small team of US geologists and Pentagon officials uncovered the

mineral wealth with help from charts and data collected by Soviet mining experts

during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Afghan geologists took the charts home to protect them during the

chaos that followed the Soviet withdrawal, and produced them again in 2001 with

the fall of the Taliban, the Times said.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because

you had 30 to 35 years of war,” Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for

the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s, told the Times.

President Hamid Karzai was recently briefed on the finding, US

officials told the newspaper.

 

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