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Afghanistan’s emerging mineral boom

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When people think of the Middle East’s major natural resources, the first that comes to mind is oil. Oil has created many conflicts and caused much bloodshed in the Middle East, however, in order to reduce their singular dependence on crude, Afghanistan is currently looking to capitalize on their vast mineral wealth. BBC News reports on the new partnership between the US and Afghanistan to tap into the country’s variety of surface minerals:

Afghanistan has become the first country whose surface minerals have been mapped from the air.

The US Geological Survey released the results of a “hyperspectral imaging” effort, in which reflections of light from the ground are analysed.

The map comprises more than 800 million data points corresponding to an area of 440,000 sq km, some 70% of the country.

Afghanistan is known to have vast reserves of oil, gas, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. In late 2011, a consortium of Indian companies inked a deal to begin mining some of the country’s large stores of iron.

But the country is known to have a wider array of mineral resources; in 2010, the Afghan ministry of mines claimed a value of its reserves of nearly a trillion dollars, then carrying out tours to promote investment in them.

But it remains to pin down which economically viable minerals are where, an effort for which the USGS’s hyperspectral imaging expertise was enlisted.

“These maps clearly show the enormous size and variety of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and position the country to become a world leader in the minerals sector.”

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