U.S. Identifies nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in in Afghanistan

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.

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

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.

NYT article

So what will we see? Economic renaissance and the first live broadcasted industrialization of a nation, or colonialism part 2?

Hey, that’s enough to pay for a good chunk of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So that’s one vote for colonialism, then?

China is already there and doing.

We won’t see colonialism. We’ll see the same sort of corporate rape going on in the African oil industry. They don’t want the country – they just want the money.

By the time this gets worked out, we’ll have another Republican asshole in the White House. Colonialism it is.

That’s the best guess. My father works in a gold mine in Sudan and has a very small government furnished PMC at his command. They “take care” of the surrounding tribes (like giving them a new well cover…) in exchange of peace. I could see a similar system over there, but Afghan tribes are more connected than Sudanese tribes, so who knows.

Any kind of civilian uprising in Afghanistan (Taliban or other) will be met by swift action by men with guns working for the corporations.

Mining funded some of the conflict in the 90s. It was pretty rudimentary but even then they managed to flood the local markets with precious and semi precious stones.

The survey creates a very real, self sustainable, end state but abundant mineral wealth is often a curse be it the Congo or even Mexico. Resources can fuel conflict, divide the populace, and drive destabilizing foreign intervention. But, as in Mexico, they can be used to patch holes in the economy and maintain the state despite it’s weakness. Handled well this could create widespread wealth in Afghanistan and undercut the basis for the opium trade and the absolute poverty which fuels the insurgency. Handled poorly it could reward the few, fail to include regular Afghans, and serve to increase tensions within the region.

The Chinese for example, they’ve expanded across Africa in the last ten years locking down resource development and extraction contracts. Generally they’re dealing with nations who lack the capacity to develop their own natural resources. While the national governments are compensated for extraction the Chinese are not doing much for the local economy. Workers are imported from China and the locals are rarely integrated in a meaningful capacity. This model would simply fuel the patronage system in Kabul.

Well, now we know what Obama learned that caused him to slow the troop withdrawal process. Every country in the world is going to want a piece of this.

Boots on the ground won’t be a decisive factor, especially if your looking at a twenty or forty year timeline. The best strategy for the Afghans would be to award contracts to multiple countries. As in Iraq I wouldn’t expect American mining firms to do better or worse than the next.

My point was more the contrast that even if we wanted strip mine Afghanistan of every last precious pebble in this incredible find, it still wouldn’t cover the full cost of our wars.

The talk of colonialism here, and in Iraq, is a bit silly. As Mordrak notes it’s not economically viable and what’s good for Exxon isn’t necessarily good for America. The emergence of Nationalism outside of Europe doomed Colonialism but it failed in equal parts because it was too expensive for too little return. It was much cheaper to let the locals rule themselves and buy the goods on the open market.

I guess noone told the Soviets this…

The Soviets were not extracting billions of minerals now were they?

No. But the PMCs aren’t going to quell the Afghanis if neither the Soviets nor NATO can.

But a corporation won’t give a fuck what is happening 500km away from their site. A solid defense perimeter around the mine will pretty much guarantee safety of the operations and crew.

A network of heavily guarded safety bubbles if you will, that work on a local basis.

For how long? Good luck getting out under siege. No corporation or association of corporations is going to undertake that against the kind of threat the Taliban poses.

You underestimate the thirst for money. LOTS of money. Metric shit tons of money.

And guess who funds the Taliban…

A cabal of heroin addicts?