Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Semicolonial geology: Afghanistan

Mineral riches in Afghanistain spur imperialist grab

Published Oct 17, 2011 8:34 PM

It isn’t often that you get an education in political science from a prominent journal dedicated to the natural sciences. But the October 2011 issue of Scientific American has provided an answer to the question many have posed: Why has the United States been carrying on a war in Afghanistan for the past 10 years?

In an article titled, “Afghanistan’s Buried Riches,” author Sarah Simpson reveals a startling account of the collaboration between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey in that war-torn country. For seven years 50 USGS geologists have been ferried around in Black Hawk helicopters along with their personal military escorts. Often the scientists land for only one hour, surrounded by armed troops in areas that could erupt into firefights at any time.

These scientists and the Pentagon have covered the country and mapped an amazing array of rich mineral deposits.

The USGS project director, Jack H. Medlin, told the author that Afghanistan could be “one of the most important mining centers on earth.” In one area the USGS has identified deposits of rare earth minerals that could supply the world’s demand for 10 years at a value estimated at $7.4 billion. The Pentagon figures that same site has an additional $82 billion worth of other important minerals.

A map of the country’s deposits shows huge areas of lead, zinc, tungsten, lithium, tin, copper, gold and iron conservatively estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. A single site south of Kabul has been leased out for copper mining and is expected to yield $43 billion.

Simpson reports that the Pentagon and the World Bank, working through the Afghan Ministry of Mines, plan to auction six major mineral sites in the coming months. Iron deposits west of Kabul are thought to be worth $420 billion alone. Twenty-three international mining corporations have submitted intentions to bid on these and other mining tracts.

Perhaps the most startling revelation is that the USGS was given the go-ahead to survey Afghanistan only three weeks after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. “The 2001 U.S. invasion opened the door,” the article states candidly.

Finding and mapping the mineral deposits is one thing. Setting up mining operations in the middle of an ongoing war is quite another. It remains to be seen if the Afghan people will permit foreign corporations to loot their vast mineral wealth without a bitter fight. The U.S. military machine has been unable, after 10 years, to pacify the country and establish a functioning puppet regime. Perhaps now people in the U.S. can see more clearly what this war has really been about.


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