Jackpot of Minerals Discovered in Afghanistan Good for Afghanistan?

afghanistan minerals discovery good for afghanistan?

Nearly $1 trillion in minerals were reportedly just “discovered” in Afghanistan. Will this huge discovery actually benefit the unstable country, though?


The NYTimes recently reported that the US just “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 minerals include iron, copper, cobalt, gold, lithium, and other critical industrial metals.

This could make Afghanistan a major mining capital of the world.

“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 financial worth of this find is much more than Afghanistan’s current Gross Domestic Product, which is only about $12 billion.

However, while this may seem like a great advantage for Afghanistan, issues of corruption, terrorism, unbalanced wealth distribution, international competition for such minerals, lack of experience in this industry, and overall instability in the region could make matters there worse rather than better.

What comes to mind immediately is an analogy to someone winning the lottery. I have heard that studies show people who live rather unstable lives (with alcohol problems or major family problems) see those amplified after winning the lottery (whereas those with more stable lives do not). Could Afghanistan’s problems just be amplified by this new discovery?

Whether or not this is actually the discovery the NYTimes paints it to be has also been questioned.

Blake Hounshell over at the Daily Beast questions the ‘discovery’ aspect of this story given its timing (the war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in US history and it seems the tide may be turning to the Taliban’s favor) and the fact that the documents indicating the existence of these minerals are actually from 2007 and earlier (but supposedly just stumbled up by the Pentagon).

Whether or not this is actually a new “discovery” is questionable, but even more questionable seems to be whether or not this discovery will actually help Afghanistan. We will have to wait and see.

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Image Credit: DVIDSHUB via flickr/CC license

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