Afghanistan’s unreachable US$1 trillion mineral bounty

The world watched in apprehension as the Taliban advanced through the beleaguered nation of Afghanistan in recent weeks. With reports of the country’s chaotic fall came resurfaced claimsof untapped mineral resources in Afghanistan that could, once upon a dream, propel the nation to economic independence, as well as assisting the global green economy.

In 2007 the US Geological Survey (USGS) revealed the country held potential deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. That’s on top of the troves of precious stones including emeralds, rubies, sapphires and lapis lazuli (trade in which has allegedly helped fund the Taliban) that the country’s geology provides.

Then, in 2010, a leaked internal Pentagon memo described the potential for Afghanistan to become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium” – a metal that’s used widely to create batteries needed for the transition to renewables.

Whoever has control of the landlocked country notionally has de facto ownership of mineral deposits that could in theory equip it for a massive trade in metals used for the clean energy revolution.

But how accurate are these claims? And will Afghanistan’s mineral wealth ever be plumbed to its advantage?

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