June 14th, 2010
11:53 AM ET

Report: $1 trillion in untapped minerals found in Afghanistan

Geologists working with the Pentagon have found vast reserves of untapped minerals in Afghanistan that could be worth $1 trillion, the New York Times reports.

U.S. government officials told the Times the discovery could be enough to drastically alter the economy in the war-torn country and perhaps the actual war itself.  The Times cites an internal Pentagon memo, which says the country could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium."

The discovery was heralded by military and government officials in the U.S. and Afghanistan alike.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, told the Times. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The possibility of large amounts of mineral deposits in Afghanistan has been known for a while, but because of constant fighting in Taliban-controlled areas the full extent of the resources haven't been known.

A USGS report and several documents and aerial photos show that attempts to discern the number of deposits and value of minerals have been under way since at least 2006. The 2007 USGS report, which detailed preliminary assessments of the minerals, says previous data on resources were limited to what was produced between 1950 and 1985, but the reserves could not be fully examined because of " the intermittent conflict over the next two decades." (Read preliminary assessment - PDF and the report by the British Geological Survey on the study - PDF)

The Afghan Ministry of Mines says on its website that more research needs to be done to fully understand the economic value of the lithium, beryllium, precious metals and other valuable metals discovered. Other known precious metals in Afghanistan include copper, gold and cobalt. These beginning details, officials said, are what led to a more in-depth study by the U.S. government that resulted in the $1 trillion estimate.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines, told the Times regarding the discovery of $1 trillion in resources.

The Times report has been met with some criticism, based on the timing of the news - in the midst of a critical point in the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan.

"Wow! Talk about a game changer. The story goes on to outline Afghanistan's apparently vast underground resources, which include large copper and iron reserves as well as hitherto undiscovered reserves lithium and other rare minerals," writes Blake Hounshell on Foreign Policy's "Passport" blog. "Don't get me wrong. This could be a great thing for Afghanistan, which certainly deserves a lucky break after the hell it's been through over the last three decades. But I'm (a) skeptical of that $1 trillion figure; (b) skeptical of the timing of this story, given the bad news cycle, and (c) skeptical that Afghanistan can really figure out a way to develop these resources in a useful way. It's also worth noting, as [New York Times writer James] Risen does, that it will take years to get any of this stuff out of the ground, not to mention enormous capital investment."

Wired magazine was blunt with its headline - "No the U.S. Didn't Just 'Discover' a $1T Afghan Motherlode" - for its article outlining similar skepticism. Wired references some of the similar reports from 2006 and 2007.

The Wall Street Journal advises caution when it comes to the Minerals agency in Afghanistan.

It “has long been considered one of the country’s most corrupt government departments,” the WSJ reports.

soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Larry Silverstein

    These resources in addition to the opium ( hey folks 70% of the capital to run the world economy comes from illegal drugs) and the logistics of Afghanistan are the real reason we invaded them while the Wahabists of Saudi Arabia were left unscathed. Face it folks 911 was an inside job, a false flag operation brought to you by the real terrorists within our own govt who are in turn controlled by offshore interests. Al Qaeda as presented to you by the mainstream Media does not exist.

    June 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Larry Silverstein

    I love it when a plan comes together!

    June 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hick

    GHADABOF, you truly are a TOOL! You are now a dot on someone's radar. Continue to force your poor, firghtened, illiterate, retard followers to believe what is preached to you. When you are hungry, scared, dumb, and know nothing else you really have no choice I guess. Weakness is what you follow and preach. Hiding behind women and children claiming victory in the name of your God when you should be begging for forgiveness in the name of your God. Sad, truly sad.......

    June 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hick

    and for the rest of you that believe all of your CNN/FOX conspiracy theories, get a life. For real? Come on.....

    June 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. han

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, This explains why were there...

    June 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Larry Silverstein

    I ask people to read Zignews book the Grand Chessboard and draw your own conclusions.
    Zignew and Kissinger are members of the CFR and the Bilderberg Group the visible organization of the Illuminati
    Please investigate what these people are planning for Afghanistan and the rest of us. Please do your own research and do not accept what the mainstream media tells you

    June 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. unknownsoldier

    A trillion bucks would make the Afghan warlords happy,
    it would make the contractors happy,
    republicans and democrats would be happy
    mama, ya dead son ain't gonna come back

    June 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JBLEV

    maybe now they might actually build roads there

    June 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. damiao


    June 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tilmeismoney

    The only riches in Afganistan is the trillion dollas our politicians left there, of the tax payers money. It'll cost a 1000 tlimes more to extract the minerals than it's worth. Some ones been smokin those poppies again.

    June 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bailoutsos

    Get troops out of Afghanistan before they have to start protecting Chinese mineral interests with their lives.

    June 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ASad

    Good work, First destroy the country then rebuild by own contractors and control the country mineral resources as did in Iraq now in Afghanistan old dram with new actors.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sebastian

    What if... one day someone invades the US for the damage that has been done to the world over the oil spill?? or the war in Iraq??, afgahnistan??, etc etc etc..

    It is a government with their noses everywhere. So sick of it!!

    That would be fair I think...

    June 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chut Pata

    I knew it! Uranium deposits in Afghanistan and Waziristan part of Pakistan were never a secret. So we while we were in Iraq for oil, and we are going to Iran for oil, we are in Afghanistan and attacking Waziristan for Uranium. One trillion dollar my foot. I am sure there is enough for keep some chemical lobby active in Washington, forcing them to keep their presence in Afghanistan.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    I didn't realize that opium was now classified as "minerals."

    June 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
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