Readers may recall that we highlighted the report last week in the New York Times of an estimated trillion dollars worth of valuable materials, including copper, gold, and lithium. We pointed out that this announcement was awfully convenient, coming on the heels of reports that the efforts to pacify the country weren’t going terribly well. Readers provided further confirmation in comments, observing that the existence of minerals in Afghanistan wasn’t new (the Chinese have been operating a copper mine, or at least trying to) and that the precision of the estimate of the value of the finds was sus.
Tom Ferguson sent us an e-mail with the text of an article from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which Richard Smith graciously translated. Tom’s note:
Below I paste in an amazing interview with Richard Holbrooke.
In it explains the second part of the admin case on revealing Afghanistan’s mineral riches.
In simple English, it says that the countries that support the US intervention there get preferred access.
Says it just like that.
This is so crass….
From the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
Meanwhile Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the major donor countries would have preferential access to mineral resources in the Hindu Kush. “Afghanistan should grant access first to countries, who have supported us massively in recent years,” Karzai said, according to agency reports in Tokyo. Japan, as the second largest donor, was a welcome investment partner. Karzai warned that natural resources would have to be developed in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner, in order to prevent corruption. The proceeds would flow to Afghanistan. “There will be rivalry over these natural resources, especially now that the world knows of their significance.” Afghanistan will promote its iron ore mining to investors in London on Friday.
Yves here. Ain’t imperialism grand?
Update 5:30 PM. I neglected to include this tidbit, from a former Pentagon employee on the original New York Times story on the $1 trillion mineral “find”:
The timing of this release of ancient mining news–especially when floated with Petraeus’ name plastered all over it in a tried-and-true government propaganda outlet like the N.Y. Times–smells to me like a last ditch attempt to invent an economic justification for hanging on many more years in the hopeless Afghani morass.
Note that the now sacrosanct 1980s Russian mineral survey was “stumbled on” six years ago in 2004 by an American reconstruction team foraging in the Afghan Geological Survey Library. Then, according to the Times’ (read Petraeus and DoD) spin, nothing happened until two years later when the U.S. Geological Survey launched a 2006 aerial mineral survey followed by another in 2007, supposedly yielding all-new evidence of astonishing mineral wealth (iron, gold, copper, lithium, supposedly a trillion dollar’s worth) just waiting to be tapped. Supposedly, this astonishing new evidence was then ignored by all until a Pentagon business development task force “rediscovered” the ignored USGS mineral data in 2009.
This spin is quite untrue: in 2005, the Afghan government, quite aware of their mineral resources, opened bidding on copper mining leases in Logar Province, bidding that was won by the Chinese in 2007. As for the reliability of the USGS data, note that they report 1.8 billion tons of potential lithium deposits (lithium is very trendy with the greens these days) but only a puny 111 million tons in proven or probable deposits. But none of this purportedly astonishing USGS aerial survey data has raised much dust in the international mining world, despite the fact that the entire current New York Times scoop was thoroughly covered by Reuters and Mining Exploration News a year ago in April of 2009.
So what turned the ho-hum Reuters news of April, 2009 into a hot Times scoop in June of 2010?
Is there any connection with the desperate need of McChrystal, Petraeus and Gates for a life jacket, now that the Afghan surge they floated is sinking so rapidly?
I think so.