Mineral deposits could contribute to Afghanistan’s economic recovery

Aug 05, 2003 02:00 AM

Afghanistan might be one of the poorest countries in the world after 23 years of devastating war. However, its rugged terrain still houses probably some of the most precious wealth on Earth.
While the transitional government in Kabul cries for donor aid for the daunting post-war reconstruction, experts say that the abundant mineral resources throughout the country could contribute to the recovery of its war-torn economy if exploited properly.

At an international donor conference on Afghanistan's reconstruction in Tokyo early last year, representatives reportedly derailed their discussions to talk about the fact that Russia was holding detailed information about mineral deposits in Afghanistan.
It was known that huge oil and gas reserves were discovered by Soviet specialists in north Afghanistan in the 1960s and even a pipeline was built to supply gas to the former Soviet Union. Surveys at that time showed that Afghanistan also had large deposits of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, including iron, copper and other strategically important rare ones, such as those widely used in air and space industry, officials said.

According to Nazar Mohammad Mangal, Deputy Minister of Mines and Industries, the Ainak copper mine, some 40 km southeast of the capital city Kabul, has the largest deposit in the Eurasian continent. The iron ore reserves at Hajigak in the central province of Bamyan are conservatively estimated at over 110 mm tons with extraordinarily high quality, said Mangal, a geological expert.
Some officials even said that Afghanistan has top-quality deposits of uranium in the southern province of Helmand and the Pamir plateau in the north, all discovered by the Russians in the 1960s. But they argued that the government has no plan to develop these deposits for the time being due to the sensitiveness of uranium, an essential material for nuclear weapons.

Kabul has requested the Russian authorities to return all the geological data taken from the country when the former Soviet Union withdrew its occupation troops in 1989, while the government also asked the US Geological Survey to resurvey its oil and gas fields.
"We have 330 idle or damaged oil and gas wells in northern Afghanistan, all of them drilled by the former Soviet Union," Deputy Minister Mangal said, adding that work to rescrutinise the country's oil and gas resources may start by the end of this month.

Source: Xinhua News Agency
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