One More Thing About the Afghanistan Mineral Deposits

Related to this morning's post about the find of $1 trillion dollars worth of minerals in Afghanistan, even if we were to capture (if the verb fits....) ten percent of the total worth of those resources, it still wouldn't come close to the break-even point for the occupation of Afghanistan (which is somewhere between $200-$300 billion). If this will be the justification for staying even more Friedman units in Afghanistan, we're so stupid we can't even figure out how to make money off the deal.

(This venal argument ignores the "what do you say to the last man to die for a mistake" principle. Which should be operative. Along with many other things, ideally).

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This is such a non-story, and serves only to feed the Chomskyites and conspiracy buffs.

However large the mineral finds turn out to be, let's recall that developing those mines will be hideously expensive and difficult. Afghanistan has no infrastructure for heavy extraction industries, has nothing like stability/safety, and no local workforce with any kind of training. Other than the Chinese--- who are near by, who'd want to be the first on the scene? Afghan mining is a hole down which money will be poured by the first in. In 2025 or so, maybe then it'll make sense as an opportunity.

By DesertHedgehog (not verified) on 14 Jun 2010 #permalink

Afghanistan has also no sea ports, and no good roads to anywhere, except maybe ...Iran...

The high cost of maintaining occupation troops in that buddha-forsaken place is linked to the trouble of organizing truck convoys up the Khyber Pass, or air transport of bulk supplies (including tanks).

The same impediments apply to exporting mineral riches in commercial quantities.
Well, they manage to export their opium, do they ?

Many people recognize the negative principle inherent in "what do you say to the last man to die for a mistake". Unfortunately, some seem to think that you can dodge the issue by continuing to kill men indefinitely.

I love how one of the minister's of Afghanistan is already calculating how much $1 trillion divided by the population of Afghanistan equals, as if the people of Afghanistan will equally share this. It's nothing but propaganda for either side. At best it'll make a few people rich and employ a few more, at worst, it'll be another excuse to kill.

Here lets let the Chinese develop the deposits they have the resources and are not as squeamish as we are. (In terms of human rights etc). Actually the confrontation of the two ideologies would be very interesting. The chinese say they need the minerals so lets let them have them.

Re: "What do you say to the last man to die for a mistake?"

So, would I then be correct to assume that Mike and Raka believe the war in Afghanistan to be a mistake? It is pretty obvious that Bush made mistakes in how the war was fought and how the political situation there was handled. I've never heard from anyone with an anti-war stance on Afghanistan make a coherent argument for what the 'correct' response to 9/11 would have been short of invasion, however. I'd be interested to see one.

It's only nonsensical when you consider America as one great "we." Inefficient exploitation of these mineral resources at the cost of taxpayers and to the benefit of the military-industrial complex and other corporations would be perfectly in line with our actions in the Afghanistan and Iraq so far.

Before we even get to the issues of extraction, refining, and beneficiaries of this mineral bonanza, consider this: it was in 2007--three years ago--that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published the report that this news item is based on (

One might ask: Why was an "internal Pentagon memo" containing this info just leaked to the NYT this week? (…)

One hates to be cynical, but it wouldn't be surprising if the phrase "$1 trillion in minerals" is prominently featured in justifications for new offensive campaigns, military or rhetorical, in the near future.

And another thing: this "$1 trillion" estimate is based on NO - zero, none, bupkis -- new geological field work. The USGS report is a literature review combined with some reasonable extrapolation. Each section of the USGS report features this phrase: "The U.S. Geological Survey team has not visited the area."

Further, the highest-resolution maps the USGS used were apparently 1:250000. Geological maps generally have ten times that resolution, if not 25 times--1:25000 or 1:10000.

The FTC would arrest the CEO of a publicly-traded mining company that published the values of its reserves based on NO new field work and on maps where a the width of a pencil line covers 1000 feet on the ground.

The USGS report is what it is, but to say that the information in the report is either new or definitive is incorrect. What IS interesting is that the Pentagon re-released this information, and that they did it now. Stay tuned.

By Matthew von der Ahe (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

An addendum to my previous post: in addition to reviews of the literature and of existing 1:250000 maps, the 2007 USGS report presents analysis of some new areomagnetic and gravity anomaly fly-overs. I neglected to note incorporation of the magnetic and gravity data sets.

Also, to clarify: I am not faulting USGS for neglecting more detailed field studies. You know, there is a war and all that stuff.

By Matthew von der Ahe (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink