Is Afghanistan an Unexploited Gold (and Copper and Precious Stone) Mine?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Written by: Noel Brinkerhoff

Afghanistan Geological Survey Members performing a song at Geologist`s Day ceremony, April 2005 (photo: USGS)

What would a modern American war be without an economic exploitation angle? While Iraq has long been characterized as a war for oil, Afghanistan has been portrayed as a security-based conflict rooted in a mission to cripple al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies. But a recent declaration by Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given the war in his country a new perspective, assuming his promises of enormous natural-resource wealth prove to be true.

Karzai insists his countrymen may be sitting atop more than $1 trillion in minerals and oil reserves, which could turn one of the poorest countries on the planet into one of the wealthiest. “The initial figures we have obtained show that our mineral deposits are worth a thousand billion dollars—not a thousand million dollars but a thousand billion,” Karzai told the media on Sunday.
The president based his assertion on an investigation being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey which is still a couple months from completion.
China has not wasted any time getting into the country and exploiting some of the copper reserves. In 2007, the Chinese-owned Metallurgical Group Corporation signed a $3 billion, 30-year contract to develop the Aynak copper mine, one of the world’s largest. Another Chinese company, as well as several from India, are vying for the rights to mine iron ore at the Hajigak site in Bamiyan province, north of Kabul.
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