Resource-rich Afghanistan is looking for Indian and Chinese help to develop its vast mineral wealth estimated at around one trillion dollars.
“We are looking into our NATO partner countries; their soldiers are in Afghanistan. But practically speaking, the two countries that are in our neighbourhood, China and India, which are very much in need of these resources, they may actually be forthcoming more than other countries,” Pajhwok Afghan News agency quoted Said T. Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, as saying.
Mr. Jawad said in an interview to the agency that American companies had so far not shown much enthusiasm to develop Afghanistan's prodigious mineral wealth. “This is probably, because of the security situation in Afghanistan and the distance,” he observed.
According to a recent U.S. study, the estimated cumulative value of Afghanistan's deposits of iron ore, copper, cobalt, gold, coal and lithium stand at around one trillion dollars. Vast deposits of lithium, extensively used in computer and cell phone batteries, have been found in Afghanistan's Ghazni province. Additional reserves of this mineral are expected to be found in western Afghanistan's dry salt lakes. Analysts say that the presence of vast quantities of minerals in Afghanistan has been well known for several years.
However, the U.S. study has been the first to put a monetary figure on the scale of the deposits.
Coinciding with the U.S. geological survey estimates, Afghanistan's Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani visited New Delhi for talks with his Indian counterpart B.K. Handique. During a meeting held on June 15, Mr. Shahrani invited Indian investments particularly for the development of Afghanistan's reserves of iron ore, copper, gold and coal, an official statement said. Afghanistan also sought Indian help for training Afghan geoscientists. Experts from the two sides are set for major brainstorming sessions in July on seismotectonics and remote sensing.
India has so far pitched in $1.3 billion in Afghanistan in a variety of fields including transport infrastructure, health, education, hydro-electricity and electrical transmission. Meanwhile, China has already taken a head start in developing Afghan resources. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group (CMG) had in 2008 won a $4-billion bid to develop Afghanistan's giant Aynak copper mine. Kabul is also inviting bids for developing the Hajigak iron ore mine, one of the biggest in the world, located in the Bamyan province, 130 km west of Kabul. Mr. Shahrani said at a press conference on Saturday that a road show is being organised in London on June 25, followed by another one in Washington three months later. The bidding process will begin after these two events. Afghan officials have been quoted as saying that Hajigak mine has estimated reserves of 1.8 billion tonnes, valued at around three billion dollars.