The geologist's view: It could be a gold mine, but not for a long time
Tuesday 15 June 2010
Afghanistan has some of the most complex and varied geology in the world. Mining companies have always known about its potential because geologically it lies in a very interesting region. And it has an undeveloped mining industry in comparison with its neighbours. It has incredibly old rocks, some of which are Archean in age (more than 2,500 million years old), and then those are overlain by rocks that are from eras right up to the present day.
Its tectonic history is remarkable because of its position at the western end of the Himalayas, which were formed when the Indian and Asian plates collided. Afghanistan itself is formed of different blocks that were accreted in much the same way. It's a jigsaw of pieces of crust, and each piece has its own history, and its own mineral productivity. That could make it a very rich region. 1,400 different mineral occurrences have been recorded to date, and that's in a country where comparatively little geological research has been carried out. It's a blank canvas. There's undoubted potential for other minerals to be found.
Of course, the security situation has made it very difficult for any mining company to get involved, and so there's not really any mining industry at present – and little infrastructure, either. The only exception to that is at the Aynak copper deposit south of Kabul, an undeveloped deposit almost untouched since the Russians left. A Chinese company won the contract to develop it in 2008, and that was the biggest prospect that's been pushed by the Afghan government so far. But there's still investigation to be done on the feasibility of extracting the copper ore, and exactly how much of it there is in the ground.
The wider picture is that the mineral potential of the country is still comparatively unknown. A mining law was recently published, which is progress, but with no history of large-scale operations it may take the Afghan government and any mining companies some time to establish how to work together.
In theory, if the security situation did stabilise, there would be a lot of opportunities for mining companies to get involved in looking for these new resources. But this isn't going to be an overnight, quick-win situation. It's going to take a long time for Afghanistan's mineral deposits to be developed to their full potential.
Antony Benham is an economic geologist at the British Geological Survey. He worked on the Afghanistan Geological Survey from 2006-08
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete vomits again after photographs of Reeva Steenkamp's body are shown in court
Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Focus shifts west as Indian Ocean becomes latest search area for the aircraft and its passengers
'A charlatan' who scores 'cheap political points': Jeremy Paxman reopens war of words with Michael Gove over the World War One centenary
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
- 1 Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
- 2 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 3 Tim Berners-Lee on creating the web: 'I never expected all these cats'
- 4 Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
- 5 First Kiss viral video was just a clothing advert starring actors
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Corporate / Commercial Solicitor - Buckinghams...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The world's leading mobile adver...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Construct...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are currently ...