Natural Resources & People's Concerns

The newly founded natural resources of Afghanistan will play a magnificent role in economic growth of the country. The latest study on mineral deposits found Afghanistan's potential lithium deposits as large as Bolivia Lithium deposits, which currently has the world's largest known reserves of the lightweight metal.

The researchers have also announced that despite the large scales of Lithium, iron, copper, cobalt niobium and gold mineral deposits in Afghanistan, there are other potential undiscovered minerals such as cobalt, chromium, silver, barite, sulfur, talc, magnesium, salt, mica, marble, ruby, emerald and lapis lazuli. It’s said that some known deposits of asbestos, mercury, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, beryllium, and lithium deposits are also present in the country. Afghan officials hope fresh bids to come and develop other mineral fields with similar commitments as Chinese Metallic Mining Group who won a $4 billion contact to build infrastructure in the country. On the other hand, the Afghan and international critics believe that newly discovered natural resources could lead Afghanistan to further instability as the Taliban militants and warlords are fighting even harder to control the territory of natural resources. It seems that the discovery is a double-edged sword. The mineral reserves may transform Afghanistan into a peaceful country or they may lead it to even more prevalent conflict. Meanwhile, Activists from nongovernmental organizations say that, care must be taken to ensure that the extraction of mineral resources in Afghanistan doesn't cause irreparable damage to the environment or create grave social problems from the exploitation of cheap labor or the forced movement of villages that were built on mineral deposits.

Afghan analysts say that the exploration of the natural resources and changing them into money is a difficult task at this stage as the security is fragile and militancy continues. Waheed Muzhda, a well-known Afghan political analyst said in a tv interview, since the public opinion in the U.S. and the led allied nations are increasingly turning against the war in Afghanistan, by releasing this report, the U.S. wants to encourage its allies to continue supporting the war against terror in order to receive a share from the discovered wealth. He also believes that the exploration and drilling of mines amid poor security would further create problems and encourage decentralization as dwellers of each area would claim ownership to the mines explored in their areas. Another Afghan political observer and university professor Nasrullah Stanikzai said that "the USGS released report has three messages. First, it’s the indication of the survey over the past nine years. Second, encouraging allied countries that Afghanistan is a suitable place for investment. And the third is to the Afghan people, to support peace and benefit from the untapped wealth."

Critics of the war in Afghanistan have been skeptical that the dollar amount of the country's untapped natural resources are being promoted at a time when violence is on the rise and the international community is hungry for positive developments in the nearly 9-years of U.S war. They argue that if impoverished Afghanistan is seen as having a bright economic future, it could help foreign governments persuade their war-fatigued publics that, securing the country is worth the fight and loss of troops. Still, without increased security and massive investment to mine and transport the minerals, it could take years for Afghanistan to bank the rewards. A rail line, for instance, is needed before any iron ore could be transported from Bamyan province. And there's always the potential that such a discovery could bring unintended consequences, such as corruption and competition among nations for access to the resources. The ministry has been working closely with the international organizations, including the World Bank, the U.S. Geological Survey and the international mining and finance community for some time to ensure all of the Afghan people benefit from our rich natural resources for decades to come.

International and Afghan critics believe that, these mines will have a huge economic stimulus effect on the national and the region economy. They said that, when people have jobs and an income, they have a stake in the future and the future does not include insecurity. I think once the communities are anchored in an economy that gives them jobs money and income they would be less inclined to support the Taliban or other insurgent groups. The Afghan President Hamid Karzai said after being informed of the treasury that "the deposits could help one of the world's most impoverished nations become one of the richest, based on the report of natural reserves." At this point, a number of Indian companies and global miners have already shown interest in Afghanistan's untapped deposits.

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