….Since antiquity, Afghanistan has been a source for gems and semi-precious stones, metals, and marble. Small-scale artisanal mining has always existed to supply jewellers and metal industries. A Soviet geological survey conducted in the 1970s led to some development of large-scale industrial mining, but most of these developments stalled, after 1992, during the upheavals of the American-backed Mujaheddin regime and then the Taliban regime, after 1996. The Soviets also developed natural gas extraction, which helped to fuel the Soviet economy and provided the Afghan economy with a significant portion of its foreign trade.
In 2002, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a list of more than 1000 deposits, mines, and occurrences in Afghanistan to confirm the country’s wealth of mineral and hydrocarbon resources. Among the minerals found in abundance are gold, copper, iron, mercury, lead, and rare metals such as cesium, lithium, niobium, and tantalum. Tantalum, which is also known as coltan, is a rare element essential in the manufacture of cell phones, computers, and digital cameras. Lithium is necessary for high-tech batteries, specialty glasses and ceramics, and for some high-performance metal alloys. Niobium is used in steel alloys. According to Afghan geology expert, John Shroder, writing in a 2007 GeoJournal article, oil and natural gas reserves identified by the USGS far surpass earlier Soviet estimates.
[…..] any Afghans–from cab drivers, shopkeepers and day labourers to intellectuals– told us they believe the privatization of Afghanistan’s resource wealth is one among many factors in the strategic geopolitical and economic calculus the leaders of the NATO states use to rationalize their war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s undeveloped resource wealth is no secret to Afghans, even if most Canadians outside the mining industry remain ignorant of the fact.
* * *Like many Afghans, Aziz is sceptical of an Afghan government controlled by warlords that was first established by military force backed by American aid, in 1992, and re-established by American and NATO forces, in 2001. This government cannot survive without the support of foreign military forces. He doubts such an arrangement will protect Afghans from the destructive practices of foreign mining companies whether these companies are based in the powerful NATO states or elsewhere.Among the many warlords prominent in Afghan politics and business are Rashid Dostum and Ismail Khan. Since 2001, Dostum has held numerous influential positions in government and business including the office of Minister of Defence. Dostum is alleged by Human Rights Watch to have committed numerous war crimes since the 1980s and including while he led the Northern Alliance as the ground forces for the American-NATO invasion, in 2001. Khan was a captain in the Afghanistan National Army when he led the Islamic revolution in Herat, in March 1979. Khan’s Islamic revolutionary forces received covert support from the US during that year. Human Rights Watch alleges that Khan committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, since first seizing power in 1979 and throughout his participation in the Northern Alliance. Khan was appointed Minister of Energy and Governor of Herat by Hamid Karzai.
Before the NATO states chose to support the Northern Alliance, in 2001, Human Rights Watch, among other agencies, had repeatedly warned that the Northern Alliance, as well as the Taliban, committed widespread and systematic crimes against humanity that included targeted civilian killings, indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, summary executions, torture, rape and sexual abuse, and the use of child soldiers. read article