Rare earth element deposits in Afghanistan could transform economy

According to a recent study released by the US Geological Survey, Afghanistan may be home to massive rare earth element deposits containing about 1.5 million metric tons worth of rare earth material.

By the USGS’s estimates, Afghanistan’s rare earth element reserves could amount to up to $1 trillion worth of the precious materials. According to chemical analysis on rock samples near the deposits, the concentration of the rare earth materials could rival China’s largest deposit.

“I fully expect that our estimates are conservative. With more time, and with more people doing proper exploration, it could become a major, major discovery,” said USGS scientist Robert Tucker.

Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., told Bloomberg in an email that USGS’s new data may be invaluable in securing additional foreign investment in the region.

“Afghanistan has modern hydrocarbon laws and mining laws, favorable to investors,” Hakimi said. “I believe that the key to peace in Afghanistan lies in our mineral resources because lasting security and stability is dependent on the amount of economic opportunity available to Afghans.”

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Regina Dubey, acting director of Defense Department’s task force for business and stability operations, echoed Hakimi’s statements about the potential boost to Afghanistan’s economy, saying, “The mineral resources in Afghanistan have the potential to completely transform the nation’s economy.”

In addition to a high volume of rare earth elements, Afghanistan also contains a considerable amount of gold, iron, and copper, according to the USGS.

Sources: USGS, Bloomberg

[Image: UPI/Hossein Fatemi]