Mike the Mad Biologist

Or something. Look at what we found in Afghanistan:

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.

And there are concerns:

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.

China does have a slight advantage in that it hasn’t blown up a bunch of Afghans. Oh well. But what’s incredible about this is we were so focused on ‘winning’ that we didn’t even realize what we had found (italics mine):

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, American 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….

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….

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American 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.

Staggering, and deadly incompetence. But at least we were fighting terrorists! Or are they Taliban? Or… Nuts. But we got stuff now! And yes, this is one more way Iraq (where the business development task force was) distracted us from other things.

Comments

  1. #1 politics
    June 14, 2010

    I feel sorry for the people of Afghanistan. There is little worse for a developing nation than the discovery of natural resources. The people there will not be helped by this news, as others around the globe and their own leaders seek to exploit these resources for their own benefit.

  2. #2 BaldApe
    June 14, 2010

    Somehow, mineral wealth seems to be the form of wealth that’s hardest to share equitably.

  3. #3 James Davis
    June 14, 2010

    God, I hope that the people of Afghanistan are able to use and profit from their own resources, and not be forced to give them away to China and the US…

  4. #4 megan
    June 15, 2010

    I see warlords and tribal chiefs bartering for high money and protection fee to countries wanting to mine in their areas.

    Crying about China somehow coming in to steal our stash is so hypocritical as they’ve PAID FOR OUR BORROWED MONEY WARS that we’ve prostituted our economic souls for and American human lives.

  5. #5 bisol
    October 24, 2010

    Somehow, mineral wealth seems to be the form of wealth that’s hardest to share equitably.

  6. #6 yepyen
    October 24, 2010

    Somehow, mineral wealth seems to be the form of wealth that’s hardest to share equitably.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.