KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Exploration of mineral deposits in Afghanistan could begin as early as 2015 after Afghan mining ministry officials said new development rights were awarded.
A consortium of Indian companies led by state-owned Steel Authority of India landed a $10.3 billion deal for three mining sites in central Afghanistan, the BBC reports.
U.S. defense officials estimated in 2010 that there could be as much as $1 trillion worth of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium in Afghanistan.
U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt has said disclosure of the resource potential in Afghanistan might allay concerns about investing in such frontier areas.
A 2007 survey found an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of potential rare earth resources in southern Afghanistan. The international community gets more than 95 percent of its rare earth minerals from China.
Afghan officials said production of iron ore deposits in Bamiyan province could begin in 2015. The awards, they said, represent some of the biggest foreign investments in Afghanistan.
The British broadcaster added that Canadian mining company Kilo Goldmines also secured exploration rights in Afghanistan. The company, in a statement, said it had submitted a bid to explore iron ore deposits in Bamiyan but hadn't been notified by Kabul of the outcome of the bidding process.