USGS touts Afghan mineral wealth

Sept. 30, 2011 at 6:49 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The 24 formations of metals and minerals in Afghanistan have the potential to provide a major boost to its economy, a U.S. Defense Department official said.

The U.S. Geological Survey announced that its work with the U.S. Defense Department and the Afghan Geological Survey yielded "volumes of information" about copper, gold, iron and rare earth elements in Afghanistan.

USGS Director Marcia McNutt said disclosure of the resource potential in Afghanistan might allay concerns about investing in such frontier areas.

"The mineral resources in Afghanistan have the potential to completely transform the nation's economy," added Regina Dubey, acting director of Defense Department's task force for business and stability operations.

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. Rare earths are used in a range of products high-strength magnets to alloys for batteries.

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.

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