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Is this a discovery? Why is it news?
Author: Raine    Date: 06/14/2010 13:25:53

It was reported in the NYT yesterday that the USGS has discovered nearly a trillion dollars worth of untapped minerals in Afghanistan. When I first read of this I felt a deep pit in my stomach. The 'discovery' is good, it's the powers that be over there that have me concerned. The government is corrupt and the Taliban are still vying for power over there. That said - $1 Trillion is a lot of money. That 's how much we have spent on over 9 years of war with 2 countries. We either just made Afghanistan one of the richest country's in the world, or we officially own the discovery, and we have our war paid for. These were my first thoughts, and then I did a little digging. Disclaimer: I have a small tinfoil hat on today.

From yesterdays NYT article:
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.
It should be noted that the article refers to an internal pentagon memo, and really has no one on the record except General Patraeus, who doesn't deny this "news". The article also fails to mention that a few years ago, China secured contracts in the country to mine these minerals. Three years after China already invested $3 billion in mining contracts it won from the Afghans in 2007. From December 29, 2009, NYT:
Two years ago, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, bid $3.4 billion — $1 billion more than any of its competitors from Canada, Europe, Russia, the United States and Kazakhstan — for the rights to mine deposits near the village of Aynak. Over the next 25 years, it plans to extract about 11 million tons of copper — an amount equal to one-third of all the known copper reserves in China.

While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.

S. Frederick Starr, the chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, an independent research organization in Washington, said that skeptics might wonder whether Washington and NATO had conducted “an unacknowledged preparatory phase for the Chinese economic penetration of Afghanistan.”

“We do the heavy lifting,” he said. “And they pick the fruit.”
We have troops on the ground, and China doesn't, so we're providing security for China's assets, it seems. And when I say Security, I mean both the military and private contractors.

It get's even murkier. In 2005, the World Bank did a study: {PDF; p.13}. The USGS has long known about these reserves as well. From 2006:
The shaded-relief base is derived from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM) data having 85-meter resolution. Gaps in the original SRTM DEM dataset were filled with data digitized from contours on 1:200,000-scale Soviet General Staff Sheets (1978–1997). The marginal extent of geologic units corresponds to the position of the international boundary as defined by Abdullah and Chmyriov (1977), and the international boundary as shown on this map was acquired from the Afghanistan Information Management Service (AIMS) Web site (http://www.aims.org.af) in September 2005. Non-coincidence of these boundaries is due to differences in the respective data sources and to inexact registration of the geologic data to the DEM base. Province boundaries, province capital locations, and political names were also acquired from the AIMS Web site in September 2005. The AIMS data were originally derived from maps produced by the Afghanistan Geodesy and Cartography Head Office (AGCHO).
There is even a list of deposit types listed in this 2007 PDF from the USGS. So this 'discovery' has been known about since what seems to be around 1977-- About 2 years before the then Soviet Union invaded the country. This is not a discovery.

So why is it news now? I would suggest that this story, as it is presented, is neither news nor a discovery. The real story is why this has been allowed to surface again. I have a deep pit in my stomach about all of this, and I fear we have just opened up the gates of hell in that area. We either allow the country to manage it's own resources, or we turn them over to the corporate masters. neither of which is a very good proposition. As I mentioned earlier, the government is corrupt. This just doesn't sit well with me at all. I feel it's been something that has been bubbling to the surface for years. It wasn't just about the pipeline for the Bush administration, I think they knew about this all along.

Are we pressuring China? That could be a plausible explanation for this story to suddenly become news. If we are to pull out of the region, that does leave them with no security. Perhaps this is about economics? I don't know -- but something is up.

And now for your moment of Tinfoil:
Where is Dick Cheney?



57 comments (Latest Comment: 06/15/2010 01:36:33 by livingonli)
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