Monday, June 14, 2010

Afghanistan: The Next Frontier

Gold is among the minerals to be found in lightly-explored sections of Afghanistan, according to a report by the New York Times. The data come from a U.S. Geological Survey updating some exploration work done in the Soviet era, which was never followed through upon. An opinion compendium by This Week also includes some skeptical pieces, but it provides a good listing of reports and comments on what may be the next frontier in mining.

3 comments:

  1. If there ever was a load of propaganda crafted to deflect attention from an unpopular policy, then this is it. I don't think it's any coincidence that this well press-agented story was released just days after it was published that the Afghanistan War had surpassed Vietnam War in becoming America's longest war.

    The Soviets, and then the Russians, knew about these so-called mineral deposits 30-years-ago, yet nothing has been done about it. I wonder why? Could it be that there is really not much there?

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  2. It could be, but the Soviet system never had any real incentives to get any deposit into production. Moreover, they has trouble holding on to the country; the war never stopped in the 1980s.

    I think the real barrier is political risk. Growing poppies is a lot easier than getting a mine up and running. The capital costs would be huge, as the place where the deposits are has no infrastructure, and political interference may ruin the return. They're located in places where the central government has litle reach. More importantly: once put in place, a mine cannot be moved. It can be expropriated. It can also be sabotaged, which (I believe) stayed the Soviets' hands in the 1980s. Mine workers, let alone the mine itself, would have been an easy and very visible target for the mujahideen. A mine put in plce now would be for the Taliban, unless they were nicely paid off and stuck to their end of the arrangement.

    I agree that the U.S. government has an incentive to talk those deposits up, because North American companies going in and exploring would be a talking-point sign that Afghanistan is "pacified." Hope does spring eternal.

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