From Wired's Danger Room blog:
The Pentagon wants the world to know: When the American military stops spending billions per week in Afghanistan and eventually goes home, the Afghan economy is gonna be totally fine. After all, they’re sitting on trillions in mineral deposits, just waiting to be mined.
Too bad many of the mines are in regions too dangerous or geographically treacherous for companies to set up camp. And it’ll take at least a decade before the mines yield tangible goods, and the profits that accompany them.
A year ago, the New York Times gushingly pronounced that Afghanistan, with at least $1 trillion in untapped minerals, was poised to become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” Now, the Pentagon has announced plans to train Afghans in “airborne geophysical exploration.” The project will harness the latest in geophysical mapping technology, which uses aerial sensors to detect the specific quantity of minerals in precise locations, and how readily accessible they are.
Of course, it’s hardly breaking news that Afghanistan is rich in minerals. The Soviets concluded in the 1980s that the country was rife with resources like lithium, iron and gemstones. Even the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2007, remarked that “Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources.”
So why is the U.S. re-mapping the mines?
For one, “this is a significant push toward modernizing and updating our knowledge of the resources,” says Kari Lipschutz, a doctoral candidate specializing in natural resource management and conflict at the University of London. “Some of the estimates they’re relying on date as far back as the 1960s — there’s a good chance of a major discrepancy between what we think is there, and what actually is.”...MORE