Afghanistan the New ‘Saudi Arabia of Lithium’?

After decades of war and internal conflict with the Taliban, Afghanistan may finally have a glimmer of the hope for a thriving economy. Pentagon officials discovered a mother lode of valuable mineral deposits, including lithium, which the modern world is clamoring for to power batteries and iPhones.

The potential worth of the mineral deposits is estimated at $1 trillion, which is a far cry from the measly $12 billion output from Afghanistan’s murky economy based on poppy production and illegal drug sales.

The front page piece in today’s New York Times, couldn’t have been leaked at a better time, as the renewed military effort in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban is seeing little success of late. Additionally, the Karzai-led government continues to be racked with corruption, making it difficult for the U.S. to establish a functional central government, as it prepares to pull out its forces.

Although, it will take years, if not decades for Afghanistan to develop the infrastructure needed to mine the mineral deposits, the Pentagon sees the potential for Afghanistan to become the next “Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

According to the Times’ piece, U.S. officials are now assisting the government in obtaining international contracts to mine the country’s valuable resources, in the hopes of transforming the poverty stricken country of Afghanistan into an economic mining powerhouse:

“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.” [...]

“While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.”

But, not so fast. With a corrupt government and Taliban militants fighting for control of the newfound wealth, there are no guarantees, the people of Afghanistan would benefit from a thriving economy with jobs and a higher standard of living. What’s more likely, is an all too familiar scene in third world countries holding mineral reserves, run by despots controlling the wealth for themselves.

Still, the wealth of valuable mineral deposits is the first bit of good news to come out of Afghanistan in quite a while.


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