Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

It’s all mine, says Afghan media

June 18, 2010
Quick, find some lithium before the batteries run out...

(Quick, find some lithium before the batteries run out... pic by author)

A colleague blogged earlier this week about the report that says Afghanistan is sitting on a veritable fortune in mineral resources – between $1-3 trillion, depending on how optimistic you are.

Although another colleague analysed more critically what enormous difficulties need to be overcome to see even a fraction of that sum, it hasn’t stopped the Afghan media from getting excited.

At one of the busiest news conferences I’ve seen in Kabul for some time — ordinarily you’d have to promise at least tea and biscuits to entice journalists to cover the ministry of mines – Afghans were keen to hear more about these riches and how to get them.

“Will my generation ever be able to benefit from these minerals,” asked one middle-aged reporter.

Mines Minister Mines Wahidullah Shahrani had clearly been asked the question before, and he gave a wry smile before pointing out that it would realistically take 10-15 years of ideal conditions before serious revenues would be generated — but that it was possible in his generation.

The minister also noted that resources could be as high as $3 trillion instead of the $1 trillion noted in the report. “Hmmm!” noted one jaded reporter, “now we don’t have three times as much money as we never had before …”.

The news conference was held at the Afghanistan Geological Survey building, which given the economic potential that minerals offer has benefited greatly from foreign aid and expertise.

Set in a beautiful rose garden — the capital’s bomb barriers and  and high walls often hide wonderful gardens — the building also houses a quaint collection of Afghanistan’s minerals in their raw state.

Much of the collection is marked in Russian from when Soviet geologists noted the country’s potential in the ’50s and ’60s  – nearly 100 years after the British did the same.

(A map showing Afghanistan's minerals at the AGS)

(A map showing Afghanistan's minerals at the AGS)

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