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U.S., Afghan Study Finds Mineral Deposits Worth $3 Trillion

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Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan minister of mines Wahidullah Shahrani said geologists have discovered untapped mineral deposits worth an estimated $3 trillion, which could help drive economic growth and reduce unemployment.

“There is a massive copper deposit located in Balkhab district of Saripul province,” Sharani told reporters in the capital Kabul today at a joint press conference with U.S. deputy under secretary of defense Paul Brinkley. “It is valued at billions of U.S. dollars and one of the biggest untapped copper mines in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Geological Survey, which is mapping the country’s mineral resources with help from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operation set up by Brinkley, estimates the country’s mineral wealth at $3 trillion. The estimate is based on a survey of 30 percent of the country’s land mass. Afghanistan may hold unexplored mineral deposits worth as much as $1 trillion, the Pentagon said in June, citing U.S. Geological Survey data.

The new copper discovery is bigger than the current Aynak copper deposit in Logar province, south east of Kabul, according to a report published by the GSA today.

“This discovery appears to be a volcano genetic massive sulfide deposit -- a deposit type which could supply much of the world’s gold, copper, lead and zinc,” said the report.

Gold and copper were also found in the Zarkashan area of Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan with an estimated value of $30 billion while Lithium deposits valued at around $60 billion were discovered in four eastern and western provinces of Afghanistan, the report added.

Geologists also discovered rare earth minerals and niobium deposits in the Khanneshin area of Southern Helmand province with an estimated value of more than $89 billion. Two other copper deposits were found to the north of the current Aynak mines in Logar province which may be as large as the existing Aynak copper deposit, said the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul, Afghanistan at enajafizada1@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at +91- jrupert3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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