Print 67 comment(s) - last by Beno.. on Jun 16 at 1:23 PM

War has torn the sleepy mountain nation of Afghanistan for the past three decades. Now, however, its fortune may change, thanks to the discovery of a mineral deposit wth over $1T USD worth of lithium and other mineral deposits.  (Source: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Lithium is commonly used in batteries (electric vehicles, electronics) and pharmaceuticals.  (Source:

A map of Afghanistan's resouces, along with their value.  (Source: The New York Times)
Military deployment and close political ties may give U.S. ideal opportunity to harvest valuable resource

Lithium deposits worldwide may be sufficient to eventually sustain the demands of an electric-vehicle driven world and modern electronics, but in the near-term, demand-driven shortages loom.  Fortunately, the U.S. has made a pivotal discovery that may help to keep costs in the U.S. down.

According to a report in 
The New York Times, senior American government officials are quoted as saying that a massive mineral deposit has been discovered in Afghanistan which holds $1T USD in lithium, iron, copper, cobalt, and gold deposits. 

The lithium deposits are expected to exceed those of Bolivia, the world's largest current producer of lithium.  Bolivia contains over 9 million tons of extractable lithium, according to recent estimates.  Lithium prices currently are at around $6,700 USD per ton and have doubled over the last few years.  That places the net value of the lithium deposits alone at around $60B-$100B USD.  An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan may become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium."

The iron deposits are estimated to be worth $420.9B USD and the copper deposits are estimated to be worth $274B USD.  A full breakdown (with the notable absence of lithium) is available here.

The U.S. currently occupies Afghanistan, and this spring U.S. President Barack Obama started the deployment of 30,000 extra troops to the region.  The U.S. troops are safeguarding the fledgling Afghani government from the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist insurgency movement that would prefer to see the country returned to a non-democratic religious rule.

That close relationship may allows the U.S. to harvest the resources quite affordably.  And it should allow U.S. corporations to easily enter the country and pursue development of the resources.

U.S. officials recently briefed Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government on the discovery.  Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, in a Saturday interview stated, "There is stunning potential here.  There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant."

The discovery could provide for a great boost to Afghanistan's standard of living.  Currently, the entire nation only makes $12B USD a year, a figure largely derived from Opium drug trafficking and foreign aid.

However, threats to the U.S. and Afghanistan harvesting the deposit remain.  Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team, says that while Afghanistan has a national mineral mining law, this law has never received a serious challenge before.  He states, "No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces."

Also, he's worried about possible environmental impact of the mining, stating, "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."

Afghanistan has little current mining capacity.  States Jack Medlin, a geologist in theUnited States Geological Survey’s international affairs program, "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."

Even if the U.S. can handle environmental and legal concerns, there's the issue of the Taliban trying to take the deposits by force.  And there's the problem of growing tensions between the U.S. government and Karzai, following suggestions by U.S. officials that Karzai may have committed election fraud in his most recent election.

Regardless, the deposits appear valuable enough that it's likely that the U.S. and Afghani governments will be compelled to cooperate to begin their extraction.

Interest in possible mineral deposits was triggered by 1980s era Soviet charts which suggested mineral deposits in Afghanistan's mountainous terrain.  The U.S. Geological Survey investigated the region, first using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft and then with a using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface.

Most of the deposits are located in central and northern Afghanistan.  The main lithium deposit is located in Afghanistan's central Ghazni Province.  Many other deposits look to hold rare earth metals, which are at present largely controlled by China.  There also appears to be large deposits of niobium, a rare, soft, grey, ductile transition metal used in superconductors.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By littlebitstrouds on 6/14/2010 11:12:20 AM , Rating: 2
Just say what you're trying to imply. This kind of commenting is as useful as news networks who simply imply through questioning things that are ridiculous and untrue.

RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By Daniel8uk on 6/14/10, Rating: -1
RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By Amedean on 6/14/2010 11:26:35 AM , Rating: 2
I guess the United States government can finally justify the countless deaths and the whole invasion. A few people can now become very very rich. Yay!

Wow, what a shallow statement! You don't need to respond-you already said it! Oh and "willyloman".......never heard of this is where you get your news.

RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By SublimeSimplicity on 6/14/2010 12:14:46 PM , Rating: 3
You are revealing your looter's mindset in your question. You believe that for someone to prosper someone else must suffer. For a society to work, people must exchange value for value, and in that way everyone prospers.

The simple answer to your question, is yes... although I'm sure you don't understand why.

By xkrakenx on 6/14/2010 4:09:03 PM , Rating: 2
For a society to work, people must exchange value for value, and in that way everyone prospers

tell that to the punk that spit on your big mac. Its never that simple anymore. Someone will always complain they are getting the shaft. and some self righteous hippie will tell them they are right to complain until we all have exactly the same stuff and nobody is 'rich'

RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By Pirks on 6/14/2010 12:28:29 PM , Rating: 1
Of course yes. They're not going to import work force from other countries, are they?

RE: Markets (Corporations) rejoice!
By Starcub on 6/14/2010 12:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
Just say what you're trying to imply.

He didn't have to. It was already implied in the NYT article when they referred to this 'discovery' as possibly leading to Afganistan becoming the Saudi Arabia of mineral deposits. The persistent pattern of international affairs in the global economic 'free market' is you try to broker a deal with easily corruptible leadership which you prop up with a relatively small amount of resources and in return get a great deal on that country's resources. No matter that that rest of the country hates your guts -- let them find refuge with terrorist extremists :P

Read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins if you want to know how the world really works.

Trust me, the only people this discovery is a surprise to are some in the US general public.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki