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The Pentagon's Afghan Minerals Hype

Yahoo News points out that more recently, McClatchy Newspapers reported that this last year, Agence France Presse has written about it and Afghan President Hamid Karzai himself has boasted of the nation’s wealth . Afghanistan’s mineral reserves were mapped by the Soviets during their occupation of the country, and more recently by other mining experts. It’s possible that the team of Pentagon officials and American geologists credited with the “discovery” by the Times may have added some detail to existing knowledge on the subject, but it’s hardly the revelation their reports–and the article–suggest.

So could this “revelation” in the Times in fact be an Obama administration PR campaign to buttress U.S. involvement in the troubled war in Afghanistan? For years, we were told of Afghanistan’s potential valuable oil or oil pipeline prospects. When oil faded from the picture there was no economic reason to be there. The place wasn’t like Iraq, where the international oil companies got their hands on a huge oil reserve. But now, with the Times apparently swallowing the Pentagon’s bait, we’ve suddenly got a new reason to fight: Getting our hands on a lucrative mining colony.

James Risen in the Times reports : 

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.

Running counter to the claims of a huge discovery is an existing undated  report called Minerals in Afghanistan, prepared by the Afghan Minining Ministry  jointly with the British Geological Survey and easily obtained on the web. The report has  this to say on the subject:

In central Afghanistan occurrences of rare metals have been identified in sediments below several lakes and depressions where lake brines contain higher than average metal concentrations. Trial pits have indicated that salt deposits covered by clay and loam layers contain high concentrations of lithium, boron, lead and zinc.

In a 2006 special edition on Afghanistan of Mining Journal, pre-eminent publication in the field, the mining minister, Hon. Eng. Ibrahim Adel, writes in the introduction:



story | by Dr. Radut