$1 trillion Afghan mineral wealth discovered

This video from Canada is called John Foster – Oil Pipelines the new Great Game – What Afghanistan is Really About. 1/9.

So much for Pentagon propaganda about the Afghan war being for democracy women’s rights blah blah blah … now, refuted by the Pentagon itself.

From the New York Times in the USA:

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

Published: June 13, 2010

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.

World capitalism being as it is now, it is to be feared that these newly discovered riches will increase the greedy desires of United States and other NATO countries corporations, and will fan the flames of more war in Afghanistan; bringing more death and hunger to the poor people of Afghanistan, who will not benefit from those trillion dollars.

Unless the world peace movement in succesful in getting the soldiers back home from Afghanistan.

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.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

If that minister would have accepted a bribe from a United States, instead of a Chinese, business, he very probably still would be minister.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

Probably, for poor Afghan farmers, the mining wil mean that foreign big busisesses will drive them off their land. And it will mean pollution by mineral run-off, like with Shell in Nigeria.

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The [Afghan] Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

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.

U.S. knew about Afghan mineral bonanza in 2007: here.

The spoils of war? U.S. finds ‘nearly $1 trillion of mineral deposits‘ in Afghanistan: here.

Why Afghanistan’s Lithium Discovery Excites Silicon Valley: here.

The Pentagon’s Afghan Mineral Hype: here.

The Afghanistan mineral story and Pentagon propaganda: here.

What Are Rare Earth Elements?: Recently discovered mineral deposits in Afghanistan may be worth $1 trillion: here.

Afghan Officials Giddy Over Mineral Wealth Estimate: here.

Will Afghanistan Become the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium”? Let’s put this story in perspective: here.

The New York Times’ description of Pentagon plans to hand over Afghan mineral riches to major international mining corporations and financial firms exposes the imperialist character of the NATO occupation of Afghanistan: here.

Countries That Support US in Afghanistan Get Preferred Access to Minerals: here.

47 thoughts on “$1 trillion Afghan mineral wealth discovered

  1. Afghan mineral wealth may be greater: $3 trillion

    By DEB RIECHMANN and AMIR SHAH Associated Press Writer © 2010 The Associated Press

    June 17, 2010, 8:19AM

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth is worth at least $3 trillion — triple a U.S. estimate, according to the government’s top mining official, who is going to Britain next week to attract investors to mine one of the world’s largest iron ore deposits in the war-torn nation.

    Geologists have known for decades that Afghanistan has vast deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and other prized minerals, but a U.S. Department of Defense briefing this week put a startling, nearly $1 trillion price tag on the reserves. Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani said Thursday that he’s seen geological assessments and industry estimates that the minerals are worth at least $3 trillion.

    “Afghanistan has huge untapped natural energy and mineral resources which have enormous potential for our economic development,” Shahrani said. “Ensuring that this is done in the most transparent and efficient way while delivering the greatest value to the country is a priority of the government.”

    Critics of the war have questioned why the nation’s mineral worth was being promoted at a time when violence is on the upswing and the international coalition is under rising pressure to prove that its counterinsurgency strategy is working.

    They argue that if impoverished Afghanistan is seen as having a bright economic future, it could help foreign governments persuade their war-fatigued publics that securing the country is worth the fight and loss of troops. It also could give Afghans hope, U.S. officials say.

    But Shahrani insisted that the release followed months of work to assess the mineral deposits with the aid of old geological information obtained by several different nations over more than three decades of conflict.

    “There has been regular communication, regular exchange of information between the Ministry of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey. Three months ago they shared this information with us,” Shahrani said. “We were just waiting for the exchange of information from Washington to Kabul.”

    President Hamid Karzai mentioned the mineral wealth at a May 13 event with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, but he did not elaborate. The Ministry of Mines held a news conference in the Afghan capital following a story about the Pentagon estimate in The New York Times.

    Shahrani said the ministry has been working with international partners to assess Afghanistan’s mineral reserves and improve the expertise of Afghan geologists. In addition, Shahrani said mineral and hydrocarbon laws have been updated to meet international standards and efforts are being made to prevent possible corruption in the awarding of contracts.

    In November, two U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports alleged that Afghanistan’s former minister of mines, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel, accepted $20 million after a $3 billion contract to mine copper was awarded in late 2007 to China Metallurgical Group Corp. The former minister has denied having taken any bribes and said the contract went through all legal channels.

    Aynak, a former al-Qaida stronghold southeast of Kabul, is thought to hold one of the world’s largest unexploited copper reserves. Mining the copper could produce 4,000 to 5,000 Afghan jobs in the next five years and hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the government treasury, Shahrani said.

    Craig Andrews, a lead mining specialist for the World Bank, said Aynak was expected to start producing copper within two to three years. Production of more than 2 billion tons of iron ore at Hajigak in central Bamiyan province, a relatively safe area of the country, could begin in five to seven years, and possibly sooner, he said.


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