Discovery of vast mineral deposits "best news for Afghans"
The discovery of mineral deposits worth nearly 1 trillion US dollars in poverty-stricken Afghanistan is "the best news for Afghans," a presidential spokesman said Monday.
The survey, commissioned by the Afghan government and conducted by the United States Geological Survey, recently found larger mineral reserves than previously known in Afghanistan, the spokesman said.
"It is very, very big news for the people of Afghanistan," Wahid Omer, chief presidential spokesman, told a news conference on Monday. "We hope this will bring the people of Afghanistan together for a cause that will benefit everyone", DPA reported.
The country largely relies on aid from the US and other Western countries to pay for security and other expenditures, despite efforts by the Afghan government and its international backers to make it self-supporting.
"It is a poor country, but it is not a poorly resourced country," Omer said. "We hope that this will be a resource for Afghanistan which will make Afghanistan self-sufficient in the forthcoming future."
The deposits discovered include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium, a key material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and mobile phones, according to a New York Times report on Monday, based on information provided by US officials.
The officials told the Times that the Afghan state could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium."
Officials say that with the country's current infrastructure it would take years to develop its mining industry, while its mines are less attractive to foreign investors as long as the Taliban-led violence continues.
More than 120,000 NATO and US troops are based in Afghanistan to battle an insurgency waged by the Taliban, which was ousted in late 2001.
The new mineral discoveries are also seen as possibly stoking the insurgency rather than bringing peace, because the Taliban could fight more fiercely to regain control of the country and its newfound wealth.
However, Omer said that the potentially lucrative industry could create new hope in the country for "a very bright future" and unite the Afghan people.
"It will drastically improve the lives of Afghan people and their economic status ... so one reason for the war - which is the poverty - will be addressed by this."