Early one morning in June, just a week after the New York Times reported claims by U.S. officials that Afghanistan was perched atop enough copper, gold, iron, lithium, and assorted rare minerals and gemstones "to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself," I made my way with a local guide to the illegal mines of the Safit Chir, an emerald-rich line of ridges 100 miles northeast of Kabul. After a three-hour climb up trails navigable only on foot or by donkey, we greeted several miners, and one of them led us past the dark maws of the tunnels to the edge of a ridge, the better to see the places where his nation's wealth might be hidden.
As we looked out over steep slopes dotted with purple delphinium, the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas all around us, Abdul Latif told me that he had not always been a miner. He had become a mujahideen commander after the Soviet invasion in 1979, he said, and he'd faced the enemy's artillery and helicopters in these very mountains: land mines and the bones of men were buried out there, and older things too. Haroon, another miner, said that while he was digging a new tunnel several years ago he came across ancient buried walls, the chamber of a house made with neat stone masonry. He found a clay amphora there and smashed it in the hopes of finding gold, but it contained only dust.
Afghanistan's "artisanal" miners, the gem-seeking equivalent of subsistence farmers, have been extracting and exporting precious stones for more than seven millennia; archaeologists have discovered lapis lazuli from Afghanistan in ancient burial sites as far away as Egypt. For the 3,000 or so artisanal miners working today, the job remains difficult. They have no property rights and keep their operations hidden from the central government, which in any case has little control over the region. Fatal accidents from blasting, cave-ins and avalanches are not uncommon, and the miners survive on a diet of stale bread, tea, chickpeas, rice and hashish, brought up once a week by donkey. In the summer they live in small stone huts with tarpaulin roofs; in winter, they move down into the mines themselves. For these efforts, they produce gemstones with a market value of about $2.75 million annually, and probably keep about a tenth of that for themselves.
That there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan is as obvious as the stone in Haroon's hand. But no one knows just how much. The Times cited a newly arrived Pentagon task force to support the claim that Afghanistan possesses "nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits," and the Afghan government itself puts it closer to $3 trillion. But such numbers can't be found in any published scientific papers. "You can read every one of our reports, and there's no dollar figure attached to them," says Jack Medlin, the geologist who coordinated the 2007 U.S. Geological Survey work in Afghanistan that informed the Pentagon estimate.
"From what we can tell, someone took the estimated tonnage and looked up commodity prices for that particular mineral at that time," Medlin says. "You begin to go through a multiplication and addition process, and someone arrived at a trillion-dollar figure."
The Pentagon task force estimate also obscured another important fact: Knowing about something is not the same as having it. Geologists and mining professionals carefully distinguish resources—the actual amount of a given material that exists in the ground—from reserves, the amount of that resource that can be extracted at profit with current technology under current conditions. The Pentagon, however, had simply tallied up the current market value of all the minerals buried under one of the most rugged, remote, undeveloped and lawless countries on Earth.
The result, not uncommon in Afghanistan, was the promise of a rich reward with no accounting of what it would take to obtain it. The country desperately needs the resources to rebuild, but future investors will demand a far more careful analysis of the costs and benefits. If scientists can determine what really lies beneath the ground—what can be extracted under the challenging "current conditions" of poverty, chaos and war—perhaps Afghanistan can negotiate its own fate.
If the people in this and its surrounding countries would quit their "religious war" B.S. and get mining they could pull themselves out of poverty. Then again they would just fight over minerals. We should "adopt" the whole area, make it a province, use the proceeds to impeach Obama, and pull our own country out of recession. IMO
"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before.".. Paul Dirac
wouldn't all those mineral deposits be worth more if irradiated by a nuclear bomb? jk. my favorite part of the story was: "the miners survive on a diet of stale bread, tea, chickpeas, rice and hashish, brought up once a week by donkey. "
It's comments like the above that just cut me to the core. I'm so tired of the xenophobia, prejudice and stereotyping. It would do everyone a great deal of good to look inward. Deal with your own downfalls first. When you're perfect, then you can judge. Don't people want to get past all of this hate? Why must we keep salting the wound? Besides, when you judge others, all you are doing is negating yourself.
@imabeast: How about I come and "adopt" everything you own? I can sell it all and use the proceeds to send you off to Afghanistan. Maybe then you'd realize that our government is a whole hell of a lot better than what most people are forced to contend with.
It is not economic production that keeps Afghanistan down, but a culture of endemic corruption. The heroin market has been funding the country for some time, but the money does not trickle down due to corruption.
True, it is easier to regulate a legitimate industry than drug production, but if the corruption is the same (and the article highlights the difficulties had withing the industry), then the outcome will invariably lead to the same depredations.
No one questions that China's railline and industry will be secure - but that is because China will never question the means or the human cost on the production end. So long as the good flow, China will turn a blind eye to humanitarian abuse, corruption, and general thuggery. Not that China condons such things - it just doesn't care if other do them.
You wanna talk about hate? Why dont you ask any muslim in the world, the real reason why no christian or none believer in islam is, or ever has been allowed to even step foot in mecca!
and note this is NOT A RECENT EVENT!
so before you go lecturing someone who recently had 3000 of his fellow citizens killed because a group of muslim people that just loves america soooooooooo much wanted to say hi and leave roses at the door!
I wish people would stop lying to themselves they put all of us in this wonderful country of America and our way of life in joepardy every time they cowtow to these muslim fools that have no regarde for our way of life, our lives, there kids lives, there families lives, or there own lives!
always stand up
always stand out
always stand strong
always stand free
In the absence of the Red Menace, we must create for ourselves another boogey-man.
Boogey-men are so easy to find, we change them often. We need only find one that fits the current weather.
By the way. I was just wondering: Why can't non-Mormons can't go in the temple? Do Mormons hate our way of life?
I just happened to think...
Were the Muslims working like all the other people in the WTC towers on 9/11 not Americans?
you guys are so jokes! stop being blinded by patriotism! the only good thing about a country is the good people who live in it, the people who govern it are skimming the cream off the top! you get taxed for them to make weapons so they can profit from using them in war, and reap the resourses that they steal as a result, or the from the contracts of re-building of the infrastructure that theyve destroyed! why is there a war in afganistan anyway? radical islamics come from an ideology not a country, the uk shoe bomber was british-jamacian, how come the uk didnt get attacked? you need to start asking questions instead ok acting like a bull to a red rag!
I assume you also hate all Christians because of this terrorist attack by a Christian extremist that killed two of your fellow citizens.
Turn the other cheek, and all that.
no actually i hate anyone that would set out to kill poeple for no other reason then blind ignorant religios belief! however looking out into the human multitude, and using communsence judgement i am inclind to say that the most intolarent and easy to radicalize of religions would have to be that of the islamic faith, and yes there were Americans kill in the 9-11 attacks that were muslim, hence forth i stand by the credo dont kill or atempt to kill people because alah, god, jesus, bohda, john smith, the devil, or any other deity told you to and you wont be hated!!!
on the hate point [Londonberry] no where in my previous statement did i say that i hated anyone.
There are jackasses of every political and religious strip. They don't ban Lutheranism in Europe just because Luther's book on The Jews and Their Lies was the core of Nazi Ideology, so why do we try to ban Muslims? I mean the Holocaust caused 4000 times as many deaths as the bombing of the Twin Towers so wouldn't that be a much stronger base?
Ah! Blind, ignorant religious belief.
The same that put the Native Americans to the Spanish sword.
Western History since the all of Rome is rife with wars fought by Christians who knew that they were right and that their god was on their side.
Ignorance is bliss.
the problem is quill that was aprx 400 years ago!
Ignorance is why this country is what it is today
400 years ago?
What was going on in the 18th Century? Blankets. Yellow fever. Smallpox. Sound familiar? British Christians were deliberately infecting the Native Americans and, well, killing them.
What was happening as we claimed our "Manifest Destiny" at the outset of the 19th Century?
What was going on 150 years ago?
How many Native American children in the US were taken from their families, forced into boarding schools and forcibly taught to be Christians -- right up into the early 20th Century?
What was going on in the 20th Century in "Christian" Europe? Peace and Christian brotherhood?
Christianity hasn't exactly been lily white and as pure as many want to think for the last several centuries.
(Oh, by the way. Islam's birthday is about 600 years after Christianity's. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it? Christianity's younger cousin gets the whip for being no more unruly than the older cousin?)
Interestingly, after being shown kindness by the monks of St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai, Muhammad produced a rather lengthy set of rules for Muslims that basically said that he held Christians in high esteem and that nobody was to molest them as citizens of his realm. He even said that if a Christian woman were to marry a Muslim, it had to be with her approval. Furthermore, she was not to be hindered from practicing her religion. No one was allowed to oblige Christians to fight. In fact, Muslims were to fight for them. He said Muslims were to be "with" those who adopted Christianity.
Of course, religions being what they are, they can be, and generally are, perverted to justify just about anything. Much as many Christians have, throughout their history, been somewhat less than Christ-like, the same can be said of many Muslims. Holy books can be used as much to justify evil as they can to exhort people to do good.
The tragic thing about religion is that those who seek most fervently to achieve "holiness" generally achieve "a**hole-iness".
Christianity will get back around to its sinister side -- it's already headed that way.
Oh wow, no way dude, thats some really cool stuff.
well I have to say I am generally against nation building and against the war in iraq and afghanistan.Also I detest the hyporcritical moralism that comes out of washington and the veiled imperialism.But I think one thing changes my mind :the taliban.I belive that there is no reconciling with people who cut off peoples body parts becuase they ran away from an abusive relationship(time magaizine).Simply put the taliban ideology is sickenly unhuman and I really don't know how you can justify even reconciling with people who cooperate with them.The current way the U.S. is running the war is obviously innefcient because it has acted as a money hole for large defense corporations like KBR and such.If perhaps new ideas like exporting affordable region appropriate soulution like what their doing at M.I.T. d lab (cook stoves) I could concievably support nation building.Also it would be wise to stregthen regional goverments with more arms and yes there needs to be a partition that is simply the fact.Also I would like to point out that sacrificing human rights or more specifically women's rights is unthinkable even when you trying to "accomadate" local traditions.I really dislike when people say it's cutural imperliasm, disrespecting the rights of women to do and say and move freely must be respected universaly I do think we have the right to impose that no matter what the locals think,complete patriarchal societys can't exist in 21st if we wish to move foward.Lastly with the minerals Afghanistan I think we shouldn't import our wasteful industrial model on them.I think that a more flexible and less coporate dominated system(small capitlism) must emerge in devoloping worlds simply because its better and takes less time also it doesn't allow for the elite to control the people in a destructive way.
oops i made a couple of typos ie "disrecpecting womens rights to do and say and move freely must be rejected universaly"
Corruption is an economically efficient mechanism that reimburses the political infrastructure for the risks they run doing their jobs. Does anyone contend that grafting political appointees owe no fealty to their hierarchy? Does anyone think that an under-compensated or uncompensated administration would be stronger politically? Or perhaps another bumbling colonial administration like the one Bush installed in Iraq is the answer? Hardly. We should encourage corruption, not impede it.
We need to complain less about local matters that are really none of our concern and focus on the mission at hand: destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Let's make our enemies pay and allow our allies to enrich themselves wherever they can and be glad for them. The turnover in the Afghan minerals office is a device to spread the wealth, not a measure of criminal intent. Work with it. Don't make waves that make us unwelcome upstarts in a harsh country we can never understand and never need to bother. We are there to kill our enemies who came to our country and attacked us. Let's accomplish our goal of a safer world and get back home as soon as we can.
Oh my, arguments about muslims on the internets? What a surprise!
of course people are going to forget the whole topic of this story and focus on what they dont like about this person or that person. i ask really? must you people bicker amongst your selves. this, your worst than me or he is the anti-christ this, is not going to lead any one to world peace or any resemblece of it.
i pesronally thought it was quite intresting that such deposits where in such a place.