WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- Detailed mapping of Afghanistan provides a "backbone" for future natural resource development, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The USGS, the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, a U.S. Defense Department entity, published 60 detailed hyperspectral imaging maps of Afghanistan.
"Hyperspectral data from this research provides a fingerprint that identifies Afghanistan's natural resources," Suzette Kimball, acting USGS director, said in a statement Monday. "This detailed data serves as the backbone of crucial scientific information needed for economic development of natural resources as well as the potential to identify water, biological and natural hazard information."
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.
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 have said production of iron ore deposits in Bamyan province could begin in 2015.