a colonial bonanza. now to keep those pesky chinese out somehow

US Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan
James Risen, NYT, Jun 13 2010

The US has discovered nearly $1,000b 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 US 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 US 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 US geologists. The Afghan government and Pres Karzai were recently briefed, US officials said. While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. Gen Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, said in an interview on Saturday:

There is stunning potential here. There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the US and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12b.
Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines, said:

This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy.

US and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The US-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House. So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the US officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact. Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country. The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by US officials of accepting a $30m bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced. Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge. Paul Brinkley, Deputy Under-Sec Def for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits, said:

No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces.

At the same time, US officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the US, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, US officials said. Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. Brinkley said:

The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible? No one knows how this will work.

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. Jack Medlin, a geologist in the US Geological Survey’s international affairs program, said:

This is a country that has no mining culture. They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the US-led war against the Taliban insurgency. The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said. Brinkley said:

The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this. We are trying to help them get ready.

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war. In 2004, US 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. During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the US invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s, said:

There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the US Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70% of the country. The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted. The handful of US geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing. But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the US and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information, and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits. Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of US mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Def Sec Gates and Pres Karzai. So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, US officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan. Just this month, US geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves. For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers. Medlin said:

On the ground, it’s very, very, promising. Actually, it’s pretty amazing.

24 Comments

  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Would this JYT story tend to improve, or diminish, the enthusiasm of dumb American voters for the AfPak mock war?

  2. lobro
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    goldman, sachs, iron, cooper, kobalt, carpetbaggers are moving in: “let my people come”.

    the wild tribes of afghanistan (part of eretz israel according to newly discovered scrolls in petah tikva) have never seen the likes of this tribe.

    another land without people (goys don’t count) for people without enough land.

  3. lobro
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    … the US, given its heavy investment in the region

    yeees, ungrateful wretches, given that heavy investment, unappreciative of depleted uranium, destroyed towns, cluster bombs, uav’s raining hellfire missiles 24/7, isn’t trillion enough? no, they demand more, ever insatiable, what’s a countryside wedding or funeral without entertainment generously provided by usaf to promote the everlasting friendship between zogians and little brown people?

    did you know that the bubonic plague was lord’s (heavy) investment in medieval europe?

  4. niqnaq
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Yes, that’s the core of the spin throughout the article.

  5. Helvena
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    So now we get to the truth…the invasion it wasn’t about woman voting. But is was about democracy, that is bring the vehicle the Jews slide in on. I think this shows the feminist for what they are. Soft headed tools.

  6. Helvena
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    …so since woman are the weak underbellie of society, it really behooves anyone with an idea they are trying to sell, to tailor the pitch to women or at least have a version of the idea that women can buy into and then target women organizations. That’s how Christianity was sold. Wasn’t it Constantine’s mother that influenced him to Christian?

  7. niqnaq
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Women and slaves, darling 😉

    You sound about ready for Nietzsche’s “Genealogy of Morals”:
    http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/genealogytofc.htm

    By the way, somewhere in essay 1 he informs us that “xymphora” means “misfortune”.

  8. niqnaq
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    You know, it’s funny: this thread is developing in parallel with the other one that is talking about music and right-wing philosophy. But what I am trying to say applies to Nietzsche too, which is, you just can’t map occult philosophy, or equally Nietzsche’s philosophy, onto any particular political system. This is because what the philosophers are talking about is the ineluctable truth that some people are vastly more naive than others, and therefore, in practice, the subtler and more sophisticated people will always rule the more naive ones. But you can still have systems that are more humane and less barbaric, and that minimise the amount of systemic lying necessary, if this is what the subtler people resolve to have.

  9. lafayette sennacherib
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I’ll make a serious effort to read that Nietzsche stuff sometime. I’ve sort of been curious about him, but didn’t know where to start. I started ‘Thus Spake…’ once decades ago, but didn’t get far; but I read a bit of this and was surprised by his charming, readable style – not what I remember at all. These essays seem on a more user-friendly scale. Generally though, I give philosophers a wide berth, out of a sense that if the big questions have answers they’ll come out of physical science, if it takes billions of years. Just my temperament at the moment, but to quote Chomksy again,” the workers need facts, not theories….” I noted that you don’t believe in proletarian parties. Well, I certainly don’t believe in any of the parties that currently claim to be proletarian parties; but I think it’s evident that democracy under capitalism must have proletarian parties, or at least one proletarian party with a democratic structure. But I’m jumping to conclusions about what you meant.

  10. lobro
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    what has been excised from all these debating forums is the quaint notion of honor, the moral self control that solely determined man’s quality in the olden days, when everybody was primarily his own unforgiving judge.

    it has been watered down to homeopathic levels, known as self-esteem or corrupted beyond recognition into “assertiveness”, the long fall from a nordic warrior to metrosexual humanoid.

    at which juncture, by natural extension one may argue that sophisticated have the evolutionary right to rule the naive, with charity and mercy spiced according to personal taste.

  11. lafayette sennacherib
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    This article from today’s Counterpunch by the brilliant Diana Johnstone ( ‘Fool’s Crusade’ on the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia) may be of interest to readers here, as it touches nearly all the bases ( no black metal or occultism) relevant to recent threads. It’s on Noam Chomsky’s visit to France; she discusses the holocaust cult, shit French philosophers, and other things.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone06142010.html

  12. Helvena
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with Lobro that what passes for naive today in the past was called honor at least there was the ideal of honor. That is you didn’t cheat someone simply because you could or take advantage of someone simply because you could. The subtle honorable mind made that distinction. But when civilizations are in decline, to put it very crudely, the turds float.

  13. lobro
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    to sum up last two posts, bernard henri-levy floats

  14. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    By the way, somewhere in essay 1 he informs us that “xymphora” means “misfortune”.

    Thanks. That’ll do me.
    I googled it a few years ago and came up with zero – apart from the blog.

  15. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    This article from today’s Counterpunch by the brilliant Diana Johnstone ( ‘Fool’s Crusade’ on the NATO destruction of Yugoslavia) may be of interest to readers here …

    Funny you should bring that up. I opened the front page of third World Traveler yesterday. It’s full of quotes portending doom. One says words to the effect…
    “Every 10 years or so USA has to pick up some crappy little country and smash it against the wall just to show everyone who’s in charge.”

    Of course, what’s hilarious about that is that smashing ‘crappy little’ (defenseless) countries is the upper limit of America’s military expertise – as the Russians and the Chinese, and others, are slowly, but surely, demonstrating to the world.

  16. niqnaq
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit, I am an example of the sort of herd animal Nietzsche so detests:

    ‘We have invented happiness,’ say the Last Men, and blink.

    To me it seems that most forms of external struggle are, or should be, completely redundant; the only interesting struggles that remain, or should remain, are internal. You can pursue them lying flat on your back, only rousing yourself occasionally to take a puff of whatever it is you smoke. You really shouldn’t have to do anything any more. If we could just get rid of this tedious charade of competitive capitalism. To bastardise another quote slightly:

    As for living, our machines can do that for us.

    For the original of this, see:
    http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/isleadam.htm

  17. lafayette sennacherib
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    ” smashing ‘crappy little’ (defenseless) countries is the upper limit of America’s military expertise – as the Russians and the Chinese, and others, are slowly, but surely, demonstrating to the world.”

    I’d like to think that’s the case, but nonetheless the USA is beavering away to try and break up Russia and China into smashable little chunks. The question is whether they can persuade the Russian and Chinese elites that their interest lies in throwing in their lot with the international elite and depending on the US army as the universal enforcer of debt payment; and if so, can the peoples still do anything to resist. I fear it’s too late for Russia. But maybe not China – they’ve got staying power.

    The symbolist movement is a longstanding interest of mine, especially Mallarme. I’d forgotten about that book by Symons. Handy that it’s online.

  18. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    I’d like to think that’s the case, but nonetheless the USA is beavering away to try and break up Russia and China into smashable little chunks.

    I wouldn’t deny that that is what USA seems to think it’s doing but the USA is always beavering away on something expensive but unproductive and illusory (War on Islam, Axis of Evil, Iran Nukes). Imo, Russia-China aren’t the least bit concerned about America’s attempts to “create reality” because each has the ability to strike any target it chooses in the continental USA. That’s Security.

    However, if either is feeling mischievous, they can capitalise on the precedent set by USA in Poland et al and re-establish a missile base in Cuba. That’ll send someone in America a message about when enough really is enough. But that’s where things are headed.

  19. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Cuba illustrates, in the most delightful way, the pitfalls of arrogant and wilful stupidity. Without the 50-year reality-creating embargo, Cuba would have become a reasonably wealthy tourist mecca, Castro would have been put in a museum and Cuba would be an American state. But as things stand it’s an Achilles Heel – ripe for the picking.

  20. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Btw, thanks RB.

  21. niqnaq
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    always close yer tags 😉 what you did is, you closed the bold tag back to front, with the slash after the ‘b’.

  22. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I realised that. But when I back-tracked, corrected and reposted, it got worse.

  23. niqnaq
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry, I am always ready to correct obvious mistakes.

  24. niqnaq
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Lafayette: “The symbolist movement in literature” by Arthur Symons is online:
    http://www.archive.org/details/symbolistmovemen00symouoft
    It’s a slow download but well worth it. A real pleasure to read.

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