“Throughout the history of the world, whenever a substance of value is found, the locals die. In great number and in misery. This was true of ivory, rubber, gold, and oil.”
Quote taken from Blood Diamond, starting Leonardo Dicaprio and Djimon Hounsou
Afghanistan has over 1400 mineral fields, containing barite, chromite, coal , copper, gold , iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur , talc, zinc among many other minerals. Gemstones include high-quality emerald , lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. It is believed that among other things the country holds $30 trillion in untapped mineral deposits. The first mining boom in Afghanistan was over 2,000 years ago in the era of Alexander the Great, when gold, silver and precious stones were routinely mined.
The British Empire first initiated resource assessments in Afghanistan in the early nineteenth century as they searched through pioneering exploration and military escapades for countries to dominate as markets and trading partners.
From the time of their first geological mapping and mineral resource assessments in Afghanistan, and on into the twentieth century, the British maintained a comprehensive interest in resources of Afghanistan. This was done while also improving their military intelligence on resources and topographic detail that would be needed in the event of any unrest in the machinations of their
Great Game face-off against the Russian Empire, and as long as they could maintain their British Raj (rule) of the Indian subcontinent. A number of other nationalities (German, French, Russian) also looked at geology and resources in the country from time to time but nothing much seemed to come of their explorations. Following the third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, Afghanistan won its independence from diplomatic domination by the British and it was not long after that a Soviet publication on mineral “riches” first appeared, published by a man who later came to be revered as an early Russian ‘father’ of geologic studies. Nevertheless, in spite of early attempts by the government of Afghanistan to entice Americans to become engaged in resource discovery and extraction in the country.
Today geologists working with the Pentagon had discovered $1 trillion worth of precious and base metal deposits in Afghanistan. The untapped deposits – including huge veins of gold, iron, copper, cobalt and key industrial metals like lithium – have been valued at more than $2.86 billion. Minerals include large deposits of iron, copper, niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, as well as rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.
‘There is stunning potential here,’ said General David Petraeus, the top US commander in the region. ‘There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant,’ he added.
The mineral jackpot has thrown a new light on the US-led thirteen-year war in Afghanistan and President Obama’s surge to reclaim lost ground in the south of the country.
Some of the richest ores are said to be scattered along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan that has been the scene of some of the most deadly combat and is thought to be the hiding place of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Cynics claimed today that details of the discovery were leaked out because the US administration was desperate for some good news at a time the military offensive was achieving only limited gains against the Taliban appears increasingly embittered towards the White House.
It will also raise question marks over the motives behind the long and costly war launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.