Mining in Afghanistan

It is estimated that forty million years ago the tectonic plates of India-Europe, Asia and Africa collided in a massive upheaval. This upheaval created the region of towering mountains that now includes Afghanistan. That process also deposited vast amounts of minerals, including gold, copper, lithium, iron ore, cobalt, natural gas and oil in a country later written off as wartorn and poverty stricken, [1] Afghanistan's resources could make it the richest mining region on earth. [2]

As of 2006, "the mineral resources of Afghanistan were relatively underexplored from a global perspective. The country has extensive deposits of barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semiprecious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc. Precious and semiprecious stones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. Ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, the country’s remote and rugged terrain, and an inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these deposits difficult. Afghanistan’s mining industry currently uses primitive methods and outdated equipment and some of the country's approximately 200 mines are still under the control of local warlords as of 2006. Production data for mineral commodities were not readily available as of 2006."[3]

Afghanistan has 89 rich mineral fields with an easy extraction and utilisation possibility, according to information published by Persian Encyclopedia of Economics and Management. Based on the information most of Afghan mines are still intact. With the biggest rich mines of lapis, gold, turquoise, coal, copper, iron, barite and as well as oil and gas fields Afghanistan is one of the countries with the richest and biggest intact mines in the world. There are six big lapis mines in Afghanistan with the biggest one located in northern Badakhshan province. Badakhshan is also home to one of the biggest gold mines in the country. Based on the information there are around 12 copper mines in Afghanistan including the Aynak copper deposit located in Logar province.[4] Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan.[5]

Contents

History

Lapis lazuli was being mined in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan as early as the 3rd millenium BC[6] In ancient Egypt, lapis lazuli was a favorite stone for amulets and ornaments such as scarabs and was used in Egypt’s pyramids[7]; it was also used in ancient Mesopotamia by the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians for sealsand at neolithic burials in Mehrgarh. During the height of the Indus valley civilization about 2000 BC, the Harappan colony now known as Shortugai was established near the lapis mines.[8].[8]. Lapis jewelry has been found at excavations of the Predynastic Egyptian site Naqada (3300–3100 BC), and powdered lapis was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra.[8] In ancient Mesopotamia, Lapis artifacts can be found in great abundance, with many notable examples having been excavated at the Royal Cemetery of Ur (2600-2500 BC).

The mine of Aynak’s copper has more than 2,000 years of history, from the coins and the tools that were found there. The gold of Zarkashan has more than 2,000 years of history in Ghazni Province.

Afghanistan's ruby/spinel mines were mentioned in the Arabic writings of many early travellers, including Istakhri (951 AD), Ibn Haukal (978 AD), al-Ta'Alibi (961–1038 AD), al-Muqaddasi (ca 10th century), al-Biruni (b. 973; d. ca 1050 AD), Teifaschi (1240 AD), and Ibn Battuta (1325–1354 AD).

Legal framework

A new mining law was passed in 2006 and as of 2006 regulations were being developed to provide the framework for more formal exploration for and mining of minerals. The process of applying for mineral rights was also being revised as of 2006. All minerals located on or under the surface are the exclusive property of the Government, except for hydrocarbons and water, which are regulated under separate laws. The principal role of the Government with respect to minerals is to promote the efficient development of the mineral industry by the private sector. The Ministry of Mines and Industries is responsible for the administration and implementation of the Mining Law. The Law provides investment security to the holder of a mineral right. The Government cannot expropriate mineral rights without adequate compensation in accordance with international norms. The Law also gives the mineral royalty rates, which range from 5% of gross revenue for industrial minerals to up to 10% for gemstones. Other changes in Government policy in 2006 included the legalization of the gemstone trade, Government control of the gemstone industry, and encouragement of investment in mining.[3]

Security

The Afghan Ministry of Mines has established a 7000-strong Mining Protection Unit, in addition to other national security forces.

Commodities

Major findings, 2010

In 2010, a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists discovered about $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan,[9] [10] enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. According to other reports the total mineral riches of Afghanistan may be worth over $3 trillion US dollars.[11][12][13] "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".[14] Ghazni Province may hold the world's largest lithium reserves.[15]

The deposits were already described in the USGS report on Afghanistan issued in 2007.[16] President Hamid Karzai remarked "Whereas Saudi Arabia is the oil capital of the world, Afghanistan will be the lithium capital of the world."[17] Deposits in the United States and Canada which need mining operations similar to those necessary for the deposits in Afghanistan went out of production due to cheaper production from lithium containing brines.[18] Afghanistan invited 200 global companies for the development of its mines.[19]

Rare earth elements

According to a September 2011 US Geological Survey estimate, the Khanashin carbonatites in southern Helmand Province have an estimated 1 million metric tonnes of rare earth elements. Regina Dubey, Acting Director for the Department of Defence Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) stated that "this is just one more piece of evidence that Afghanistan's mineral sector has a bright future."[20]

Copper

No copper mines were active in the country in 2006. In the past, copper had been mined from Herat Province and Farah Province in the west, Kapisa Province in the east, and Kandahar Province and Zabul Province in the south. As of 2006, interest was focused on the Aynak, the Darband, and the Jawkhar prospects in southeastern Afghanistan. Copper mineralization at Aynak in Logar Province was stratabound and characterized by bornite and chalcopyrite disseminated in dolomite marble and quartz-biotite-dolomite schists of the Loy Khwar Formation. Although a resource of 240 million metric tons at a grade of 2.3% copper had been reported, a number of small ore lenses were potentially not practically and economically minable. Open pit and underground mining would be needed to exploit the main ore body, and other infrastructure problems, such as inadequate power and water, were also likely. The new (2005) Mining Law might favor the development of the deposit by using public tenders. The Government issued a public tender for the deposit in 2006 with a deadline of October 28, 2006, and expected the granting of concessions in February 2007. Nine mining companies from Australia, China, India, and the United States were interested in the prospect.[3]

China Metallurgical Group won the bidding for a copper mining project in Aybak, Afghanistan. The bidding process has been criticized by rival Canadian and U.S. companies alleging corruption and questioning the Chinese company's commitment to the Afghan people.[21]

Gold

As of 2006, gold was mined from the Samti placer deposit in Takhar Province in the north by groups of artisanal miners. Badakhshan Province also had occurrences of placer gold deposits. The deposits were found on the western flanks of the mountains in alluvium or alluvial fan in several river valleys, particularly in the Anjir, the Hasar, the Nooraba, and the Panj Valleys. The Samti deposit is located in the Panj River Valley and was estimated to contain between 20 and 25 metric tons of gold. Alluvial gold An estimated $30 billion in gold and copper deposits in the Zana Khan, an area of the Zarkashan skarn deposit in Ghazni province.[22]

Iron Ore

The best known and largest iron oxide deposit in Afghanistan is located at Hajigak in Bamyan Province. The deposit itself stretches over 32 km and contains 16 separate zones, up to 5 km in length, 380 m wide and extending 550 m down dip, seven of which have been studied in detail. The ore occurs in both primary and oxidized states. The primary ore accounts for 80% of the deposit and consists of magnetite, pyrite and minor chalcopyrite. The remaining 20% is oxidized and consists of three hematitic ore types. The deposit remained unmined in 2006. The presence of coking coal nearby at Shabashak in the Dar-l-Suf District and large iron ore resources made the deposit viable for future development of an Afghan steel industry. Open pit mining and blast furnace smelting operations were envisioned by an early feasibility study.[3]

Gemstones

Afghanistan is known to have exploited its precious and semiprecious gemstone deposits. These deposits include aquamarine, emerald, fluorite, garnet, kunzite, ruby, sapphire, semiprecious lapis lazuli, topaz, tourmaline, and varieties of quartz. The four main gemstone-producing areas are those of Badakhshan, Jegdalek, Nuristan, and the Panjshir Valley. Artisanal mining of gemstones in the country used primitive methods. Some gemstones were exported illicitly, mostly to India (which was the world’s leading import market for colored gemstones and an outlet for higher quality gems) and to the domestic Pakistan market.[3]

Petroleum and natural gas

According to reports, 1.8 billion barrels of oil was discovered between Balkh and Jawzjan Province in the north of the country.[23][24] This is an enormous amount for a nation that only consumes 5,000 bbl/day.[25] The U.S. Geological Survey and the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Industry jointly assessed the oil and natural gas resources in northern Afghanistan. The estimated mean volumes of undiscovered petroleum were 1,596 million barrels (Mbbl) of crude oil, 444 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and 562 Mbbl of natural gas liquids. Most of the undiscovered crude oil occurs in the Afghan-Tajik Basin and most of the undiscovered natural gas is located in the Amu Darya Basin. These two basins within Afghanistan encompass areas of approximately 515,000 square kilometers.[3]

References

  1. ^ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/kabuls-eye-on-aussie-expertise/story-e6frg8zx-1226032924343
  2. ^ Sengupta, Kim (June 15, 2010). "Afghanistan's resources could make it the richest mining region on earth". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistans-resources-could-make-it-the-richest-mining-region-on-earth-2000507.html. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kuo, Chin S. "The Mineral Industry of Afghanistan". 2006 Minerals Yearbook. U.S. Geological Survey (September 2007). This article incorporates text from this U.S. government source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ http://www.tolonews.com/en/business/2675-afghanistan-home-to-24-precious-mineral-varieties
  5. ^ http://www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org/ECONOMY/natural%20resources.htm
  6. ^ Moorey, Peter Roger (1999). Ancient mesopotamian materials and industries: the archaeological evidence. Eisenbrauns. p. 86-87. ISBN 978-1575060422. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=P_Ixuott4doC&pg=PA86&dq=Lapis+lazuli+++mines+in+the+Badakhshan&hl=en&ei=sW6_TvWKBIKr8AOTn623BA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Lapis%20lazuli%20%20%20mines%20in%20the%20Badakhshan&f=false. 
  7. ^ Afghan Geological Survey (AGS) which oversees geological scientific research in Afghanistan
  8. ^ a b c Bowersox & Chamberlin 1995
  9. ^ "U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan"
  10. ^ "Report: US finds mineral riches in Afghanistan"
  11. ^ Farmer, Ben (June 17, 2010). "Afghanistan claims mineral wealth is worth $3trillion". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7835657/Afghanistan-claims-mineral-wealth-is-worth-3trillion.html. 
  12. ^ http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23846066-afghanistan-minerals-may-be-worth-pound-3-trillion.do
  13. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-06/17/c_13355272.htm
  14. ^ U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan
  15. ^ "Afghanistan's Buried Riches." Sarah Simpson. Scientific American, October 2011, pp. 42-49.
  16. ^ Non-Fuel Mineral Resource Assessment of Afghanistan 2007
  17. ^ "Afghan President offers mineral resources to Japan"
  18. ^ Kogel, Jessica Elzea (2006). "Lithium". Industrial minerals & rocks: commodities, markets, and uses. Littleton, Colo.: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. pp. 599. ISBN 9780873352338. http://books.google.com/books?id=zNicdkuulE4C&pg=PA600&lpg=PAPA599. )
  19. ^ "Afghanistan Invites Firms to Develop Mines"
  20. ^ Huge rare-earth material in Helmand: USGS. By Lalit K Jha for Pajhwok Afghan News. September 15, 2011.
  21. ^ Richard Lardner China taps huge copper reserves in Afghanistan Oct 31, 2009 Associated Press
  22. ^ . http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/02/13/general-as-afghanistan-mineral-dreams-glance_8305964.html. [dead link]
  23. ^ Afghanistan's New Oil Discovery Could Increase Its Reserves By Tenfold
  24. ^ Afghanistan Oil Mining
  25. ^ Energy Statistics; Oil; consumption; Afghanistan (historical data)

Further reading

"Afghanistan's Mineral Fortune" (pdf). Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security Report. 2011. http://www.uvm.edu/ieds/node/568/. 

"Afghanistan" (pdf). Mining Journal, Special publication. 2006. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/afghanminerals/docs/afghan_supp_final.pdf. 

"The Aynak Copper Deposit" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Aynak_A4.pdf. 

"The potential for copper" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Copper_A4.pdf. 

"Gemstones of Afghanistan" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Gemstones_A4.pdf. 

"The potential for gold" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/gold_a4.pdf. 

"The Hajigak iron deposit" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Hajigak_A4.pdf. 

Mitchell, Clive; Benham, Antony (2008). "Afghanistan revival and redevelopment" (pdf). Industrial minerals. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/IndustrialMineralsFinalArticle.pdf. 

"Marbles of Afghanistan" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Marble_A4.pdf. 

"Minerals Law of Afghanistan" (pdf). The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, The Ministry of Mines and Industries , Department of Minerals. 2005. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/Minerals_law.pdf. 

"Rare-metal deposits" (pdf). Afghanistan Geological Survey. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/AfghanMinerals/docs/RareMetals_A4.pdf. 

External links


References

  1. ^ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/kabuls-eye-on-aussie-expertise/story-e6frg8zx-1226032924343
  2. ^ Sengupta, Kim (June 15, 2010). "Afghanistan's resources could make it the richest mining region on earth". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistans-resources-could-make-it-the-richest-mining-region-on-earth-2000507.html. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kuo, Chin S. "The Mineral Industry of Afghanistan". 2006 Minerals Yearbook. U.S. Geological Survey (September 2007). This article incorporates text from this U.S. government source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ http://www.tolonews.com/en/business/2675-afghanistan-home-to-24-precious-mineral-varieties
  5. ^ http://www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org/ECONOMY/natural%20resources.htm
  6. ^ Moorey, Peter Roger (1999). Ancient mesopotamian materials and industries: the archaeological evidence. Eisenbrauns. p. 86-87. ISBN 978-1575060422. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=P_Ixuott4doC&pg=PA86&dq=Lapis+lazuli+++mines+in+the+Badakhshan&hl=en&ei=sW6_TvWKBIKr8AOTn623BA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Lapis%20lazuli%20%20%20mines%20in%20the%20Badakhshan&f=false. 
  7. ^ Afghan Geological Survey (AGS) which oversees geological scientific research in Afghanistan
  8. ^ a b c Bowersox & Chamberlin 1995
  9. ^ "U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan"
  10. ^ "Report: US finds mineral riches in Afghanistan"
  11. ^ Farmer, Ben (June 17, 2010). "Afghanistan claims mineral wealth is worth $3trillion". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7835657/Afghanistan-claims-mineral-wealth-is-worth-3trillion.html. 
  12. ^ http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23846066-afghanistan-minerals-may-be-worth-pound-3-trillion.do
  13. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-06/17/c_13355272.htm
  14. ^ U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan
  15. ^ "Afghanistan's Buried Riches." Sarah Simpson. Scientific American, October 2011, pp. 42-49.
  16. ^ Non-Fuel Mineral Resource Assessment of Afghanistan 2007
  17. ^ "Afghan President offers mineral resources to Japan"
  18. ^ Kogel, Jessica Elzea (2006). "Lithium". Industrial minerals & rocks: commodities, markets, and uses. Littleton, Colo.: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. pp. 599. ISBN 9780873352338. http://books.google.com/books?id=zNicdkuulE4C&pg=PA600&lpg=PAPA599. )
  19. ^ "Afghanistan Invites Firms to Develop Mines"
  20. ^ Huge rare-earth material in Helmand: USGS. By Lalit K Jha for Pajhwok Afghan News. September 15, 2011.
  21. ^ Richard Lardner China taps huge copper reserves in Afghanistan Oct 31, 2009 Associated Press
  22. ^ . http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/02/13/general-as-afghanistan-mineral-dreams-glance_8305964.html. [dead link]
  23. ^ Afghanistan's New Oil Discovery Could Increase Its Reserves By Tenfold
  24. ^ Afghanistan Oil Mining
  25. ^ Energy Statistics; Oil; consumption; Afghanistan (historical data)

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