Biz Brief: Afghanistan Harbors $1 Trillion in Mineral Wealth

In Afghanistan, poppy production may give way someday soon to massive mining operations. Citing "senior American government officials" -- and a Pentagon memo calling the war-ravaged nation a potential "Saudi Arabia of lithium" -- The New York Times reports that "The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself."

The wide-ranging implications for such a discovery of mineral riches that include copper, iron and coboalt among others are immediately apparent. And they could easily prove to be a game-changing revelation in the dicey strategy the U.S. has been trying to pursue in Afghanistan is it battles both the Taliban and the corruption that it sees undermining popular support for the government of President Hamid Karzai. The discoveries are also sure to affect the allied military operations that have proven to be grindingly slow in making progress.

In addition to iron and copper, the Times reports that "Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan." The already high stakes in Afghanistan have just gotten stratospheric.

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