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
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.
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
Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government on the
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
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
quote: Yes, tens of thousands of jobs will be created, but I'm pretty certain those wages will border on the very edge of allowing that person to survive.
quote: Firstly you say I'm a liberal, which I most certainly am not.
quote: Secondly you're suggesting that I do NOT work my ass or have a professional career.
quote: people in Afghanistan do NOT have access to the education like we do and the last time I checked there isn't an abundance of 'professional careers' going over in Afghanistan.
quote: They basically have a choice of manual labour which pays very very little or, well I'm not sure what the other choice is... live of scraps?
quote: Anyway, that union worker that you mention, why shouldn't he be paid $70 an hour, if he does a good job and works hard then in my opinion he's earned it.