One of the world’s most remote, corrupt and fractional countries may soon become an extractory economy:
The United States has 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 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 United States officials believe.
The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American 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.
You can bet the Chinese will be there – but in what capacity?
At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.
How big is it? It is soooo big,
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 United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.
That amount is approximately half the GDP of Vermont.
What happens when you superimpose a trillion dollars worth of natural resource wealth on a primitive society? That’s what happened in Saudi Arabia, and the results were not pretty. A Defense Department memo quoted in the linked New York Times article makes the parallel explicit by suggesting that Afghanistan could become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” Let’s hope that doesn’t turn out to be true.
This is a gamechanger indeed. Just One Minute links to Spencer Ackerman, who posts, Vast Deposits Of Fodder For Conspiracy Theorists Discovered In Afghanistan.
First: Is the Obama administration stupid enough to go through an announced withdrawal now?
And, as my friend Moe puts it,
On the bright side, we’ve just been given a really, really good reason to have the Obama administration stop ignoring India. Look at a map and you’ll see why.
Check out Old Timer’s comment below for the skeptical tea leaves.