back to article Tech resource woes won't be solved with Afghan minerals

Wondrous news don't you think? Afghanistan is stuffed to the brim with $1 trillion worth of valuable metals. We can just flog off a few mineral concessions and the country is rich, rich beyond the dreams of avarice while kittens gambol happily in the Kabul sunshine. Sadly, no, not really: there's a few minor little problems …


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  1. Bruce Hoult
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    This is the kind of article for which I come to to El Reg.

  2. Funkster
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    Good article, more like this please. I would really like a map showing where the raw materials come from these days, and what routes they take before being turned into refined materials, and then finished goods. Any chance you could sketch that up before teatime? :o)


  3. Otto B Stern
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    Cogent, accurate and immensely on target! This is why I read The Reg!! More! Pay this author MORE!

  4. Ian Ferguson
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    Great article

    Thanks el reg again for paying for informed authors.

    (At least, I presume he's informed, seeing as I knew nothing about this subject before reading the article...)

  5. VeganVegan
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    Great job

    Nicely said.

    For those depressed by the ignorance of our actual overlords, perhaps some of that Afghan lithium would help, but you've got to get it out of the ground first.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "For those depressed by the ignorance of our actual overlords, perhaps some of that Afghan lithium would help, but you've got to get it out of the ground first."

      Err, that's for manic-depression. I don't think Stephen Fry has been running for elected office lately.

  6. Miami Mike
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    Great work

    Geez, you better be careful here - actual CONTENT on the internet . . . what's the world coming to?

    More more more - this is great work.

    Hold on, Scotty, there might be intelligent life down here after all!

  7. neil 15
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    Brilliant Article

    probably the best article I have read on el reg for years. I shall be renewing my subscription.

  8. John Dougald McCallum

    Mine development

    As I get up at a ridiculous hour every morning I hear the BBC World Service and this week I was listening to some mining bod saying that it takes 10(TEN) years to develop any mine no matter what it produces and that is in relatively quiet and peaceful countries like Russia.As for somewhere like Afghanistan?HA add another 20 to that is my guess there are some mines that do opperate in that country but they are for precious and semiprecious stones and gems,not bulky stuff like Iron Ore or Aluminum/bauxite.

  9. Tim Worstal


    "At least, I presume he's informed"

    Some is general background information...but for another project I have been talking to all of the western world processors of tantalum and niobium over the past few weeks. I've bought and sold Ga and Ge in my time....and have a grant application in to test those two possible sources. Something that surprised even me was ending up writing the contractual standard for the metals industry for one of the rare earths. So, reasonably informed on some of the points at least, yes.

    As to mapping where everything comes from. Sites like Mindat can be useful, although they're not perfect. But the best place to get a general view of supply and demand for a mineral or metal is here:

    The interesting bit is usually on the second page of each report. "World Reserves": not who is mining what but who could be mining what if we really wanted the material.

    For example, US consumption of Ga is some 20 tonnes or so a year (and global consumption perhaps 120 tonnes). Global reserves in bauxite are around 1 million tonnes. We really ain't got a shortage.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
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    Lithium is also good for schizophrenia I hear.

    And what is 1 trillion anyway. One. Single. Bailout. I hear the next is already in the stove.

    In the same vein (pun!), this article at the Jazeera:

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ruled by the ignorant

    Whilst viewing the chief executive of Anglo-Iranian ^w^w BP Oil Co.'s testimony before the US Congress, I was struck by his inability to say anything other than "I don't know" or "I don't remember" or some combination of the two. He may have been attempting to avoid saying something stupid (i.e. "I'd like my life back" or "the small people") in his unfortunate accent which is identified by most USians as Arrogant Upper Class British Twit, however I suspect he was being ruthlessly honest.

    So, yes, I believe we ARE ruled by the ignorant.

    1. BoldMan

      Arrogant Lawyers

      Tony Hayward is so far from being an upper-class twit its astounding. What he was told to say by LAWYERS was as little as possible. Anyway why should he say any damn thing to a bunch of corrupt, baying senators? What can they do to help solve the problem? Nothing, they will just whine bitch and moan and get in the damn way. I'd also like ot know why the CEO of Transocean and Haliburton are not being give a roasting by a senate comittee as well?

    2. Spoonguard

      The large twit

      IIRC the guy who made the "small people" comment is Swedish.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      for those with *long*memories

      His testimony mirrors that of the former head of ITT in the 70s about either payments to the Campaign to Re-ElEct the President (CREEP. Not a good choice of name for an organization to support an incumbent president) or their assistance in handing over *all* foreign cable and telex traffic to the US Govt (should have been the NSA but IIRC it may have been the FBI).

      He was a famously autocratic micro-manager. The sight of him denying this, forgetting that and "Not being aware of" the other stretched credulity a long way past any limit.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      we are not ruled by the ignorant or the incompetent

      The people currently running the U.S. government are experts at Chicago Style politics. Look at the terrible condition of Chicago. And now look at how the people who run Chicago ( not just the politicians) are getting richer and richer. Obama was raised in Chicago machine politics and he is very good at it.

      I wish people would quit saying Obama is incompetent. He is not.

      AC because I don't need the IRS climbing up my rear. I already went through that with an e-mail to Clinton.

      And why do I have to go to a foreign news site like the Reg to get real news? Great article.

  12. Michael Fremlins

    Who is the "we" ?

    "We can just flog off a few mineral concessions".

  13. gimbal

    That's one mighty grain of salt, friend

    Complete objectivity and in-depth fact-checking, backed with an actual, genuinely experienced view, on the subject matter ... in reporting? Wow! I think the space-time continuum just ruptured....

  14. Rick Brasche
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    no need to worry about American resources causing price drops

    you can bet on American based resources being locked up for political and "environmental" concerns instead of mined, drilled, exploited or even marked as viable reserves.

    We're 'saving the planet'-for the Chinese or whomever wants to take the stuff in the future.

  15. David Gillies

    Irritating Morales

    Wouldn't it be easier to put Morales in an actual box? I always think that if these sinister capitalists are half as evil as the Lefties paint them then there should be a lot more Hugo Chavez's suddenly exploding than there actually are. It's almost like they act within the law or something. But that's clearly absurd.

  16. Anomalous Cowturd

    Lester, forgive me for my sins...

    I repent my previous harsh doubting words.

    This was a thought provoking, salient, and I think, heartfelt plea for a rational, measured, and most importantly, (breathes in) considered and considerate approach to mineral extraction agreements in the future.

    Thank you, elReg, and particularly Lester Haines, for a thought provoking article. This is why I keep paying the subscription fees.

    Perhaps our paid serfs, (those thieving bastard MPs) should try to engage foreign ambassadors with those sorts of ideals. Rather than lining each other's pockets to the detriment of the countries and peoples of their respective homelands.

    Perhaps Mr. Morales has the right idea. In fact, I'm sure he has.

    Thank you Lester, I salute your integrity. Now launch that friggin' plane!

    God help you in your quest for a job at RTZ though!

    Let bygones be bygones. This one's on me.

    Bloody superb article. One of the best.

    1. DaWolf

      ermmm, it's not written by Lester

      so I'm quite confused

  17. Tim Worstal


    "Thank you, elReg, and particularly Lester Haines"

    Care to check that byline again?

  18. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Good one, Lester

    Not only have you managed to walk off with the credit for this article (I'd love to see the look on Tim's face) but you've persuaded some anomalous cowturd to pay you a subscription fee. (Was it one of the platinum ones I keep hearing about?)

  19. Wim Ton
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    Other reason to release this report

    The war in Afghanistan does not seem to be very successful yet. Claiming that substantial profits can be made in the future might be an attempt to gain political support.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I'd always thought Gallium was expensive because it was *rare*

    Apparently not.

    Seems to be virtually non toxic. Can almost be melted in vigerously rubbed hands (some alloys melt around body heat), fairly inert and does not boil below 2000c.

    I'd say it's nearly idea for a filler for solar thermal power systems.

  21. UBfusion
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    2nd article needed

    Great article, I have to reiterate the cudos hailed by the above readers. Extrapolating your views a bit, am I correct to assume that you posit that the electric car industry (Li-based) is neither really welcome or expected any decade soon?

    I'd like also to point out that the raw materials issue is a political one. Building on the einsteinian equivalence between energy, politics and capital squared, I'd really enjoy a 2nd article on the political underpinnings. Since this bit of news is no-news, and the reports are non-reports, there must exist non-papers somewhere. So we have to ask, "Cui bono"? Who benefits from spreading this word at this particular point of world history? I have two guesses here: the first one is that someone wants to obscure the reasons behind the real Afghan issue (both soviet and US-wise). The second one is that someone wants to provide incentives to either Iran, India or China to invade and build mines and roads. I know that there is not IT angle in the above (except lappy batteries), but do you have any better ideas or other enlightening resources to read?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, there's a surprise.

    Interesting writeup, confirming what everyone who's been watching the world for even a short while must have expected: The announcement is one hundred percent, two hundred proof marketeering. It's some whitehouse willy doing a baghdad bob impression. A creditable one too. Or maybe that's just how gullible we are.

    Anyway. Consider China. The Chinese are sucking in everything from resources to spying anything that looks vaguely like information, sometimes so blatantly it isn't funny anymore. It's safe to assume they know better than anyone else what's known about what is to be had in Afghanistan.

    It's worth remembering that China tends to a longer view than most four-years-and-off-you-go democrazies manage. They're also strapped for resources to the point that they're building railways up and down town and even offering to roll out high-speed trains to their neighbours ``for free'' in return for... ore concessions. What's a mountain but a hill to a billion Chinese? So I'm not worrying who's going to be the most interested there, no.

    Can't help but wonder where India and Russia think they're slacking off to, though.

    I'm undecided whether the US is that desperate for good press or whether they figure they're in a "use it or lose it" situation, regarding the information, not the ore. I don't expect them to figure they can actually do anything with that ore; they're there to free the Afghani and ``give them democracy'', not being neo-colonialists. Even though they're rather good at being exactly that while denying high and low they ever would. Maybe that's me being naive.

    Who's certainly being naive is the EU. What a complete shame. But not unexpected. *sigh*

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    All handed to 1 US conglomerate in a no bid deal

    Like Iraqi oil and Haliburton perhaps?

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