Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lithium and other Minerals in Afghanistan

Pretty interesting article in the NYT this evening:
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”
Of course, the administration is strongly invested in trying to justify the Afghan war, which isn't going very well, and no doubt this news should be seen as part of the P.R. campaign. Still, the Obama administration does not have a history of large lies, so I assume the basic facts here are true.

That lithium would come in pretty handy if we are going to try and run the planet on plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.  Lithium is a key constraint in that scenario.  Whether anyone will ever get it out of Afghanistan is another question altogether though.


Datamunger said...

And a very large and fast rising mercantilist power shares a border.

The senior Pentagon strategist was on CNBC a few min back pointing this out and saying that if the US brings economic development to Afghanistan, there should be pay back.

Mining execs were saying these resources are old news (as in decades).

Datamunger said...

Here's the cnbc clip .

"The" should just be "A" in my previous. Erin says that lithium miners say Afghan ore is of poor quality.