Washington, June 14 (ANI): The United States has discovered nearly a trillion dollars in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan.
According toa New York Times report, senior American Government officials said the discovery include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium.
The minerals could transform Afghanistan into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the Americans believe.
An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.
The vast scale of Afghanistan's mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists.
The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai have been briefed on the issue.
While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.
The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan's existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries.
Afghanistan's gross domestic product is only about 12 billion dollars.
American officials, however, also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.
Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.
The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources.
The NYT said endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts.
Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.
American officials also fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan's mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region.
After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.
Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either.
"It could take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully, as it is a country without a mining culture," said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey's international affairs program. (ANI)