June 21st, 2010
07:52 AM ET

Minerals offer something new for Afghans to be known for

Matiullah Mati is a producer at CNN in Afghanistan. He writes about his and other Afghans' impressions on the announcement of the mineral wealth find. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Matiullah Mati.

Since my birth in Afghanistan 31 years ago, all my friends and I ever heard was that Afghanistan is the fourth poorest country in the world.  Through that time, all we experienced was war, never anything else.  We did not know anything but war and dreamed of immigrating to other countries to make better lives. We had no idea our country and ourselves were sleeping on treasure.

For the first time last week, the majority of us heard about the vast mineral resources in our country, and we were shocked by the news. Suddenly we had renewed hopes and desires for  a new life.  

But still we are skeptical.  We are worried that corruption within our government will play a role.  Who will guarantee transparency in the exploration, processing and usage of these minerals?  And with the security situation, is it even possible?
On Thursday Afghanistan’s mining and industry minister, Wahidullah Shahrani, confirmed our country’s mineral reserves that he says is worth 3 trillion dollars.
He said the main challenge in mine exploration in areas such as the southern provinces will be security. But he said that as soon as people see the advantages of  mining — such as job creation and the improving economic situation for families and the country — subsequently, the Afghan people will take part in maintaining security themselves.
Shahrani added that the minerals found include copper, coal, gold and rare metals such as lithium which has more usage in electronic devices, including mobile phones and batteries. Not only were the rare minerals discovered, but also major oil and gas resources were found in the five different regions of the country as well.
The first ever survey of the mentioned minerals in Afghanistan started in 1888 by British geologists, and studies continued in the next century, by the U.S., Soviets and now the U.S. again.

War-torn Afghanistan is known as a safe haven for terrorists and a producer of 95 percent of the world’s narcotics. Maybe now it will have a better name. It may take years, but we hope to be known for something new and great.

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