One Trillion Dollars of Mineral Ore Found In Afghanistan

One trillion dollars of mineral ore found in Afghanistan is a lot of mineral wealth in anyone’s estimate. Who will benefit?

A news article in the New York Times reports on the previously unknown extent of mineral deposits in Afghanistan. A quote from page two of the article reads:

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

The article also refers to “An internal Pentagon memo that states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.”

As of June 2008, Wikipedia’s entry on Mining in Afghanistan states:

The country has extensive deposits of barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semiprecious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc. Precious and semiprecious stones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, and ruby.

A Reuters Report from March 16, 2009 states:

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had shown that the war-torn nation may hold far higher amounts of minerals than previously thought, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel said.

“In the field of minerals, Afghanistan is the richest country in the region, much more, hundreds of times more. Except for diamond, you have all the other minerals that you find in nature, in Afghanistan,” Adel told Reuters in an interview late on Sunday.

Based on the USGS survey, he said, Afghanistan’s north is estimated to hold between 600 to 700 billion cubic meters of natural gas and the country has some 25 million tonnes of oil in four basins.”

According to the Afghan Embassy, Mr. Muhammad Ibrahim Adel is the Minister of Mines and Industries in Afghanistan.

On its page describing the Afghan Geological Survey, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Mines recites:

Like other government institutions, the Afghanistan Geological Survey was seriously weakened during more than two decades of military conflict, and suffered from a lack of investment and skills development. Throughout this period of conflict and during the later rule by the Taliban, the staff of the AGS salvaged and protected documents, maps and samples, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families. After the Taliban left Kabul in December 2001 these precious data were returned to the Survey.

Following the fall of the Taliban regime, the Government of Afghanistan, with the assistance of international donors, began formulating a mining sector strategy and policies. Amongst many things, this recognized the need for the rehabilitation and restructuring of the Afghanistan Geological Survey to help it perform as a modern geological survey and implement a program of geological mapping and resource assessment using modern concepts and methods.

In response to this need, in 2004 the British Geological Survey and United States Geological Survey commenced collaborative projects with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and Ministry of Mines. These projects are funded by the Governments of Britain and the United States of America respectively. Together they are implementing a comprehensive program of capacity-building, geological mapping, evaluation of mineral and hydrogeological resources, and the creation of geological and mineral databases and geographical information systems. A mining cadastre office is also being established. These programs are providing comprehensive training for Afghans.

The site in turn refers to the United States Geological Survey and from there to the report #3063 Preliminary Assessment of Non-Fuel Mineral Resources of Afghanistan, 2007 which states:

Afghanistan has abundant mineral resources, including known deposits of copper, iron, barite, sulfur, talc, chromium, magnesium, salt, mica, marble, rubies, emeralds, lapis lazuli, asbestos, nickel, mercury, gold and silver, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, beryllium, and lithium.

The Minerals Law of Afghanistan 2005, drafted with the aid of the World Bank and recited in the publication issued by the Department of Minerals of the Ministry of Mines and Industries of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan states at Article 4, paragraph (1)

“All naturally occurring Mineral Substances and all Artificial Deposits of Mineral Substances on or under the territory of Afghanistan or in its water courses (rivers and streams) are the exclusive property of the State.”

Disaster Looms

Arrgh, Disaster looms!

Well, that will push people along and you might think it is a laudable idea to get people to do good. The problem with it is that it tacitly makes the argument that doing all the things we do is OK so long as the consequence is that we do not cause famine, total breakdown, etc.

I have a slightly different argument on the ‘why’ of how we should proceed, which is this:

There may be room for argument about the effect that man is having on global warming. There may even be room for argument about whether we are experiencing global warming as anything other than a blip in the graph.

What is not in doubt is that we are destroying the Earth with pollution.

So I say don’t let arguments about global warming be a red herring to deflect from the fact that we should clean up the mess we are making.

It doesn’t or shouldn’t need the justification that we are facing disaster.

A tree does not need to justify its existence.

We do however need to justify destroying it, whether or not at some point down the road the fallen tree will get its innocent revenge by releasing CO2 and killing the planet.

And careful housekeeping – looking after the place and not treating it like a rubbish tip – is simply good manners and a show of gratitude.