The announcement during 2010 that vast reserves of minerals were found in Afghanistan was made with great fanfare. The public was led to believe that a "small" cadre of US geologists and military officials "suddenly" discovered the mineral deposits. In addition to massive veins and deposits of iron, copper, cobalt and gold, lithium was found to be abundant. These finds are in addition to many other minerals that are deemed to be of some value or another in industrialized and developed nations.
This makes Afghanistan one of the minerals giants of the world. The problem, however, is in the never ending instability, corruption, extremist societies that horribly oppress women and anti-Western/anti occupation fervor in Afghanistan, which has historically worn down and fended off the efforts of far more well armed and advanced nations to occupy and to control the region.
Also called into question was the true reason for going to war in Afghanistan, where the minerals estimates might have predated even the 2007 reports. The timing of the "announcement" in 2010 is also being questioned, since the estimates were available much earlier.
One estimate is that it might take decades before the mineral wealth can be fully exploited.
Another problem is that the minerals exploration and discovery is hardly "new" or "recent". Indications of significant minerals finds date back as far as 2007, according to our own USGS. A much earlier awareness of the mineral wealth in Afghanistan makes far more sense, considering that there is no way to "suddenly" discover such a massive find with any finality.
A one trillion dollar estimate of value has been claimed, which is also being questioned. There is still the need for Afghanistan to stabilize and to advance enough in order to be able to establish viable mining, transport and sales of the minerals.
Finding an estimated 60 million tons of copper, for example, is one thing. The fact that copper is one of the more recyclable metals because it retains all of its properties after recycling, makes it much easier for potential customers to simply reuse their own stocks. Copper is also plentiful in developed countries, especially the US.
There is an estimated 2,200 million metric ton find of iron ore.
Lithium, however, is competitively sought out by most of the world. One comment suggests that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia" of lithium. Again, this will not happen in an atmosphere of social, political and other instability, not to mention anger with most of the countries which would be customers.
Finally, niobium contains substances that are essential to hybrid car batteries and other high tech devices.
A list of the minerals from 2007 that were "suddenly discovered" now is astounding, however.
Aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, mercury, tin, magnesium, gold, cobalt and tungsten.
Alkalai Metals, other non metals and Metalloids
Sulphur, lithium, phosphorous.
Barite, brick clay, celestite, chromite, fluorite, graphite, halite, kaolin, lazurite, potash, sulfur, asbestos, talc and magnesite.
Carbonatite Rare Earths:
Phosphorous, uranium, niobium and thorium.
Aragonite, dolomite, glass sand, limestone, marble, sand and gravel and sandstone.