Afghanistan: The Saudi Arabia of Lithium


Finally, Afghanistan could use a break. On June 13th, the U.S. announced the discovery of nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any proven reserves. Five days later, Afghanistan’s mining minister, said that mineral deposits in his country could be worth up to three trillion dollars, triple the US estimate from earlier in the week.

“A very conservative estimate has been one trillion. Our estimation is more than that, the idea is it could be up to three trillion dollars” mining minister Waheedullah Shahrani told a news conference in Kabul.

The discovery comes as an elixir that promises to drastically alter the troubles Afghan economy. One that could transform a war-torn nation dependent on narcotics trade to a major world producer of iron and copper. Afghanistan has significant deposits of copper, iron ore, niobium, cobalt, gold, molybdenum, silver and aluminum, as well as sources of fluorspar, beryllium, lithium and other resources, according to research compiled by Brinkley’s task force. Lithium and fossil fuels are not included in the $1 trillion estimate, Brinkley noted, deputy undersecretary of defense. Such a discovery comes as exciting news to Silicon Valley and resource-hungry China.

While potential is very promising, timing of the discovery makes reality very challenging. The discovery couldn’t be found at a worse time for the Afghans, as it will almost certainly have a double-edged impact. Afghans are between two roads, each of which will have them eventually ripped off. Charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government and the new found wealth could lead the Taliban to a fierce battle to regain power. Not to mention threats of neighboring countries such as resource-hungry China. While this news is exciting for some, US, China, and Silicon Valley, the discovery doesn’t necessarily pave the way to a bright future. Bolivia was recently discovered to contain an estimated 50% of the world’s supply of lithium, but the country has resisted outside investment. The Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia is one of the world’s large untapped reserves of lithium, a key metal for batteries. Geologists say Afghanistan has similar lithium wealth, but as in Bolivia, politics likely will be the deciding factor in resource development.

No one really knows how will this discovery play out on the country’s domestic scene, but one thing is certain, and it’s that the U.S. didn’t mistakenly discover the minerals.

Via alphadinar


Post a Comment