Afghanistan sits on gargantuan deposits of untapped mining resources. And while the U.S. has been fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban, China and India have started securing mineral rights.
Australia’s Background Briefing – a radio documentary program – takes an in-depth look at the future of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. A state-run Indian mining company recently won a major iron-ore contract, while China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation will soon become the first foreign company to tap into Afghanistan’s oil and natural gas.
Afghanistan has virtually no mining infrastructure, so these deals uniquely position China and India at the dawn of what will be a lucrative industry. And where are the U.S and other NATO allies? In the dust, it seems.
Background Briefing quotes Jon Huntsman, former U.S. Ambassador to China and former Republican presidential candidate. “It used to break my heart sitting in Beijing looking at neighboring Afghanistan,” says Huntsman. “[The U.S.] would have 100,000 troops there. The Chinese would move in and take the mining concessions. And I’d say there’s something fundamentally wrong with this picture.”
The Afghan Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, values the country’s mineral and hydrocarbon wealth at around $3 trillion. And it’s not just the quantity of resources that’s remarkable- it’s the diversity. Buried beneath the country’s mountainous wilderness are stores of gold, copper, lead, natural gas, petroleum, coal, precious stones and industrial metals like lithium, critical to the global tech industry.
The question still remains: Will the inevitable mining be good for Afghans? Jean Paul Getty’s now-famous saying may be instructive. “The meek shall inherit the Earth,” said the founder of the Getty Oil Company, “but not its mineral rights.”
In this 45-minute documentary, you’ll hear from the Australian, American and Afghan perspectives.