June 15th, 2010
11:37 AM ET

Why all the talk about minerals now?

Geologists working with the Pentagon have found vast reserves of untapped minerals in Afghanistan that could be worth $1 trillion, according to reports.

But there are a lot of questions about just how hard it would be to actually get the minerals out of there and even some questions about the timing of the announcement. The military didn't just discover it. In fact, even though there was a lot of reporting about it on Monday, the report apparently was done years ago.

CNN talked with Joe Klein, a columnist at Time magazine and frequent reporter from Afghanistan, and Jack Medlin, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who also just returned from Afghanistan about two weeks ago. The following is an edited version of the transcript.

CNN: Jack, you were part of the group that went to Afghanistan, documenting these deposits and you issued a report back in 2007. We didn't have the trillion dollar figure on it yet and didn't really get much traction back then. So, why are we hearing about it with a rejuvenated interest right now?

MEDLIN: Our initial assessment in 2007, at that point, had taken the study basically about as far as we could take it. And what it needed was some further work on the verification of the results that we had obtained over a 2 1/2, 3-year period and there needed to be some business development part of the equation going forward.

CNN: And the group did put out the [press] release. He said they took it as far as they could take it. But this was in 2007. And some say not much has changed other than the dollar figure, the trillion dollar figure put on it by the Pentagon. What do you make of the timing of this report coming in at time obviously when some people say that progress may not be going as well in Afghanistan?

KLEIN: Well, there was a need for good news at the Pentagon, I think. It's true ..  there's an awful lot of mineral wealth there. The Chinese are already exploiting copper, I think, in Wardak Province. But the problem is that the military's game plan isn't going so well in the things that you can see. One part of the military's game plan that's going very well, and that's the counterterrorism where we're rolling up mid-level leaders of the Taliban on an almost-nightly basis - 121 in recent months according to Stan McChrystal.

But the relationship with Hamid Karzai isn't going very well. The idea that you can do counterinsurgency, which is to secure the population and offer them services, that's not going very well either. And so, there's a need for good news.

CNN: Technically, untapped minerals seem on the face that this is great news. But logistically, how would this work? How would you actually get these minerals out of the ground in terms of an infrastructure, avoiding corruption and figuring out how to best make this happen?

MEDLIN: Well, the challenges going forward are numerous, as you've just stated. There has to be a suitable mining law in place. There needs to be infrastructure in terms of roads, possibly railroads. And then there needs also to be an energy infrastructure in place, because you can't do large-scale mining without energy.

So, there are a lot of challenges ahead and I think in this particular case, the mineral resource assessment results offers an alternate pathway forward in terms of economic growth in Afghanistan.

CNN: How realistic do you see it? I mean, others have pointed to countries like Nigeria where, you know, they're now the fifth largest producer of oil and they make billions and billions a year. But most Nigerians live on less than $1 a day and have fallen to corruption as well as other major problems and haven't really lifted the population.

How could you potentially avoid that for Afghanistan if indeed this mining infrastructure can be put in place?

KLEIN: Well, it's going to be very hard to avoid that because Afghanistan really lives on a warlord system and you're going to have a lot richer warlords if this happens. But I think what Jack said is absolutely important. There is only one major road in Afghanistan, the ring road. You need all kinds of infrastructure.

Right now, to compare: this is $1 trillion in minerals we're talking about in a country whose GDP is $12 billion a year. So, they don't have the money to really build this infrastructure.

And then you have the second big problem - unlike Nigeria, Afghanistan doesn't have an ocean. To get the minerals out, they have to go through Pakistan and that's very rough travel or through Iran. And I don't know how pleased we'd be with that.

CNN: Yes, there seem to be a lot of logistical things in the way. So, it's fascinating that there was talk of these minerals all the way back in the '70s, possibly the '80s with the Soviets. And here we are in 2010, and they know it's there. But what can be done with it is still a huge question.

soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Ernie Beatty

    For everybody's information,I'm a Tea Partier and I like this war and I'm getting sick and tired of seeing people blogging in here to protest it.

    June 16, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Onesmallvoice

      And so are a lot of others!

      June 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fraidoon

    No, this is not a logical way, the terror is not the Afghanistan problem, it is worlde wide, do u know what? the main goal of terror is to destroy out America and Europe,
    though if the world community leaves Afghanistan before eradication of Pakistani Taliban and Alqhaeda, then Afghanistan going to be a strong training place for those enemires and soon US and Eruope going to be attacked.
    me as an Afghan and am moslem belive the those are the people who are against human beings and Gods willings. becuase Islam needs human in different ethinicity, race, color and relegion to live all together in peace and freedom.

    June 16, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. ali

    You want to get the wealth of this country and let their people live in poor state.Please leave this poor country alone and get back to USA.Let Afghans live in freedom and enjoy their lives.

    June 16, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mahdi

    America get the hell out of Afghanistan- let its people be. Please dont just stay for the findings- Afghanistan can handle its mineral wealth by itself- no foreign involvement-

    June 15, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      I totally agree with you and ali.We do have a moral obligation to quit Afghanistan,but the right-wing fanatics in Washington don't think so and that's the problem in a nutshell and neither these spineless leaders in Europe who can do no more than take orders from Washington.

      June 16, 2010 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Yeah - let them do it themselves with no foreign involvement. Let them carry tons of ore on their backs or donkeys to market. Oh, wait - they have to pass through Iran or Pakistan. That would involve foreigners - forget it - lets go back to growing poppies.

      June 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. damiao

    http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com Daniel 2 Are you an idiot? I think you are not, I'm not sure about that. Honestly I respect your viewpoint and the others, this is a democratic webblog, isn't it.

    June 15, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Daniel-2

    Most of you think I'm an idiot!! You may be right.

    June 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary Johndro

      You're too smart to be an idiot since you read these right-wing fanatics in Washington and see them for what they are.But please quit blogging here on the internet as it might spoil some of the enthusiasm for this war!!!

      June 16, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        O.K. Gary as you wish.

        June 16, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Onesmallvoice

      Daniel,do stop blogging in here,please.

      June 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jerry

        Onesmallvoice: Talking to your self again Anabel?

        June 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      We may think you're an idiot,but we now know that you're not Daniel-2 and most certainly not half as funny as you think you are!Give it up,Funny boy,the gig is up!!!!!!!!!!!.Besides,you're upsetting all the Tea Partiers and every other right-wing fanatic fron Kalamazoo to kingdom come!

      June 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark 5

    Let`s hope the Taliban and Pakistanis will trade in their guns and bombs for picks and shovels and get to work getting rich.

    June 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      You forgot to mention the building of the American Anglo-French Empire,Mark.

      June 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ManBehindTheCurtain

    Since reports of the wealth of minerals in Afghanistan have been around for decades now, one wonders why the Afghan people themselves, corrupt or not, haven't gone after them on their own. The California gold rush, oh so long ago, was controlled by some of the most corrupt business leaders of that time. A select few got extremely wealthy but the country survived. The Afghani people appear to be content with making their money off of the drug trade knowing full well that there is a hell of a lot more money under the ground. Were they just looking for a sucker to build their roads for them ? A sucker with an army and a You know, get their infrastructure in place, get the ball rolling so to speak.

    June 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nathaniel

    The military was totally irresponsible for putting any $ figure on the mineral resource: they simply do not know what they are talking about. It only makes it look like the US is interested in the mineral wealth of Afganistan, and that will NOT help the US image abroad. The original study by the USGS and the Afgan goverment was probably worthwhile, but only to the extent that it would encouage a better mining law, a better investment climate (including security), and more foreign investment.

    June 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Simplicity

      The military didn't put a dollar amount on the minerals. The military doesn't have geologists.

      June 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lee

    The press should not be taking the Pentagon at face value. The Pentagon has known for years and years the value of the natural resources in Afghanistan. The real story is not the old news about minerals but why now and they saying this is some new news.

    June 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      If you are talking about not trusting people withi information they provide, maybe you should be more critical of media, not just the Pentagon.

      June 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. damiao

    http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com the resources belong to Afghan people, for sure. Anyway, what kind of mineral was found out there, guys?

    June 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Estimated figures:
      * Iron: $421bn
      * Copper: $274bn
      * Niobium: $81bn
      * Cobalt: $51bn
      * Gold: $25bn

      June 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DanB

    I read a while back, from Pepe Escobar I recall, that we were prepping to invade Afghanistan before 9/11 because the Taliban had doublecrossed us on the deals we were making with them for the pipeline routes. The rest is history.

    June 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Riza Haider

      hahahah LOL @ Taliban had doublecrossed :PPP

      June 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Riza Haider

    As USA dudes kicked Taliban from Afghanistan, i am sure USA will help us fix this mineral thingy also 😉

    Hope AFG will stand on his foot once again like it used to be on 1950s. For more info, check this: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afghanistan

    Whateva you guys thinking about Americans and why they are there, we really don't care as long we live peacefully.
    AFG people are thankful of them for whateva they did for us and still helping us.

    God Bless America.

    June 15, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • lala

      Get up son, u think u r living in peace..!

      June 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slidereader

      Absolutely. The Taliban are the worst threat to Afghan women. The minerals will end the country's dependence on narcotics for income. Those who transmogrify this effort to protect America from terrorism and the Afghan people from anarchy into an imperialist adventure are missing the point.

      June 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daniel-2

    Now it comes out why we're in Afghanistan.Just like Vietnam with all it's rubber and other resources that the right-wing news media never talked about back in the 1960's and '70's.Now we found a new pretext for keeping our troops there and quite possibly send even more in.These right-wing fanatics think of everything.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • screamingcandle

      Actually, we are in Afghanistan because they attacked us. Remember 9/11? I'm not a big fan of the war, but at least we did it because that's where the terrorists really are.

      June 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
      • Snowboarderf17

        but Osama and most of the hijackers were Saudia Arabian....

        June 15, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
      • Reader

        "The White House had (at least ) 28 Advanced Intelligence Warnings Prior to 9/11"


        June 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • Former Marine

        I stand "Partially" Corrected. Most of the reputable news providers say Bush Ignored intelligence. And the other ones, well, once again, not fully credible sources, but an interesting read nontheless. I'm definately going to look into it a bit more myself.

        June 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
      • Oregon Protector

        This is just another way for the administration to spin why we need to be there longer. The minerals have been known about for decades. Barack is a joke and hasn't done anything he said he was going to do. Nothing. Should make you wonder who is running our country.

        June 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • EISH5

        Compltete nonsense. Afghanistan is no threat to US security.

        June 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jeff

        That's a naive assessment. This is a resources "war". 911 is just the excuse to be there...just like Iraq. Billions of oil dollars, billions of mineral dollars...not a coincidence. When in doubt, always follow the money.

        June 17, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
      • repsycler

        The US attacked Afghanistan because our government said Bin Laden was behind 911, but that turned out to be false. All the supposed terrorists had passports from Egypt not Afghanistan!!!!!

        June 17, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
      • Sangrais Jan

        you keep telling this to yourself if it makes you feel better.

        June 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
      • Frank

        Clinton knew about Osama since before 1998, but Bush was supposed to stop him 9 months after taking office.

        Yeah - right. They let you vote????

        June 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        Daniel: We have a President that is trying to get our troops out!!! Not like George Bush Jr. finding reasons to get them in...

        June 19, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        Frank: If that is true!!! Why is Clinton working so hard to Help Obama now???>

        June 19, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
      • carlston

        @Riza Haider
        You need to see a doctor, Airlines high security before 9/11? They didn't have a 20th the screening and pilots bags were never searched period.

        NEVER. They didn't have box cutters they had full blown 8 inch kbar knives. Inside job? Prove it? Can't? course not? Best argueement "Look at the tower falling at the speed of gravity." everything falls that fast unless you your on the moon. Look at the clouds of dust puff. That's called 1 million pounds of cement atomizing everything on the floor and kicking it out to the side as it falls to the next.

        See the Illumiate Lizardmen much?

        June 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      Ever since the Russians were in Afghanistan companies from all over the world were assessing the minerals and the potential value. Our war in Afghanistan started with the pretext we were there to get Osama. Many people asked why would you wage a multibillion dollar war for one person. It would have been much cheaper and quicker to hire some special forces ops and just hunted him down. But no that was only a reason to get the American public support for this war.

      The real reason was to secure a oil pipeline through the country to deliver oil from the oil fields in the neighboring countries. Then there is the added benefit of all the mineral rights in the country. So the bottom line was someone had to go in there and secure the country to make profits in the future.

      The truth about the minerals has come out because the pressure is going to be on to secure these resources. This will take a lot of time and gives a perfect reason why multi-national companies wan the US military there. There is simply huge profits to be made in the future.

      Profits is what makes the world go round and war has always been used as a means to make profits for a few.

      June 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • BSTeh

        Lee, assuming what you postulate about the reason for this war is correct, how should the families of the fallen soldiers feel and react when they realise that their sons, fathers, husbands did not die fighting for the security of their country nor were they fighting to avenge the deaths of so many innocents during the 9/11 attack nor were they fighting for the freedom and liberty of the Afghan people.

        Do they not have a choice not to fight for a cause less just or reasonable? Those who have no faith in the morals and justification of this war have voted down several govts which participated in this war. Apparently, the majority is aware and convinced that there is and was no cause to invade Afghanistan.

        The situation is not improving and the invading parties can't disengage without losing their prestige and in its place more lives are lost. After all this, the invading parties can even consider to buy out the Talibans instead of fighting them. Has western democracy fallen to that level that is more befitting a corrupt Third World developing country that the west is trying to bring around?! What price Democracy?

        June 16, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Jack Ace

        @ Lee....You hit the nail squarely on the head. Three or four times!

        June 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • joel

        welcome to "governments" this is how its always been and how it will always be, the world does not revolve around the 70-80 years we live, it has always and will continue to be the same.

        June 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Daniel 2,
      Maybe you should get off of your computer for one second and actually go and see what you are talking about. You are so anti-American and anti-Coalition that you are clearly oblivious to all the atrocities that the Taliban conduct here. Amazing how easily you forget that the Taliban blew themselves up outside of a wedding last week killing 40 and wounding almost 100 Afghans. Stop spewing your crap.

      June 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • Steve

        Anonymous... I completely agree with you about this bimbo. However, don't expect to get an intelligent debate back. Everything he spews is about "right wing fanatics" and how US troops are bad... yet he ignores the atrocities that the Taliban commit everyday.

        June 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      Words I want to hear from our President: The war is over. Our kids are coming home.

      June 16, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
      • Onesmallvoice

        So do I,but we won't!

        June 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      It looked more like an exit strategy to me.

      June 16, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Ah yes i remember it well, the great comdon famine of 1968...

      June 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • repsycler

      Actually the US is in Afghanistan because of oil and drugs. Afghanistan grows more opium poppies than any other country in the world and supplies about 85% of opium worldwide. This can be further refined into heroin, a major street drug. The US military has been " playing cat and mouse" with the Taliban ever since they invaded. Our troops pull back from the opium fields when the poppies are ready to harvest so the Taliban can fund it's terrorism and distribute this drug to the market place!!!! Then when the opium harvest is over, the Taliban retreats and the US forces take over these same fields again. What gets me is how our government gets away with all this subversive activity. Can we say CIA? Remember Oliver North?

      June 17, 2010 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        That is why we went into Iraq not Afghanistan... We went there because of Bin Laden!!!

        June 19, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        Right we don't get enough drugs from Mexico do we???

        June 19, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Gramma K

      Well, well, well......it wasn't about OIL after all. Heck, it wasn't even about heroin! Does anyone actually believe that the US only discovered this AFTER we went into Afghanistan?

      June 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • Gramma K

        You can just bet we are going to "fix" the mining problem alright. We will stay there to "help" them develop their mines.

        About the heroin.... I'm a former junkie. I got clean, went to college and became a drug counselor. The Taliban BURNED the poppy fields and suddenly there was a heroin famine on the streets of America. The USA goes in and now some of the best "Mexican" tar heroin is back in such abundance and such "high" quality that people are dropping dead from it with the straw still in their noses or needle still in their arms. I realize many of you will think people dying is a good thing. That seems to be the American way.

        The thing is, the US knew the minerals were there before 9/11 and the CIA left Bin Laden in charge over there never dreaming that he would get religious on them and burn their poppy fields because that is against the Muslim religion. That's just my opinion. Everyone knows if you talk about the government you are a crazy person or an enemy of MY country, that I love too. God bless America. We need You, Lord.

        June 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      Israeli army confirms killing militant along Egyptian border
      People's Daily Wed, 16 Jun 2010 22:00 PM PDT
      The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Wednesday confirmed that their soldiers killed an armed man along Egyptian border this morning who was engaged in a terrorist attack against Israel. Early Wednesday morning, Israeli forces opened fire at an armed group trying to cross the Israeli-Egyptian border, 40 km north of the Israeli city of Eilat, the IDF spokesman's office said in a statement. One of ...

      June 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      Egypt says will not alter Palestinian unity pact
      AlertNet Sat, 19 Jun 2010 07:18 AM PDT
      Source: Reuters * Egypt denies accepting Hamas request to amend pact * Abbas's Fatah signed Egypt-written pact, Hamas refuses * Palestinian unity crucial to any peace moves with Israel (edits headline) By ...

      June 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slidereader

      Might you show a single source that proves the reason for Vietnam to have been the rubber and/or natural resources? The minerals provide an alternative to malaise as the best result of efforts in Afghanistan.

      June 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Why are they right-wingers Daniel. They haven't filmed Cheney and Bush anywhere for awhile. Maybe they are over there. I thought Obama and Co. were lefties. Explain....

      June 29, 2010 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |