DOD Helps Afghans Develop Mineral Enterprise

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2011 — A Defense Depart­ment task force work­ing with the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey is mod­ern­iz­ing Afghanistan’s geo­log­i­cal enter­prise so the war-torn nation can stim­u­late inter­na­tion­al invest­ment in its rich deposits of min­er­als, fos­sil fuels and rare-earth ele­ments.

 -
The U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey began geo­phys­i­cal sur­veys in sup­port of Afghanistan’s recon­struc­tion in 2004. In 2006, with fund­ing from the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan, USGS part­nered with the U.S. Naval Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry to con­duct air­borne mag­net­ic, grav­i­ty and pho­to­graph­ic sur­veys of the coun­try between 2006 and 2008.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

The DOD Task Force for Busi­ness and Sta­bil­i­ty Oper­a­tions is pro­vid­ing state-of-the-art equip­ment and, with USGS, train­ing for geo­physi­cists at the Afghanistan Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey so the gov­ern­ment even­tu­al­ly can use mod­ern tools to con­duct and over­see min­er­al explo­ration there.

“We’ve been work­ing with the USGS on this pro­gram since Sep­tem­ber 2009,” Emi­ly Scott, task force direc­tor of nat­ur­al resource devel­op­ment, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“We just signed anoth­er inter­a­gency agree­ment to con­tin­ue work­ing with the USGS on geo­physics capac­i­ty train­ing for the next fis­cal year,” she added. The fis­cal year ends Sept. 30, 2012.

After sev­er­al months of main­ly class­room train­ing for five Afghan sci­en­tists at the USGS in Den­ver, Colo., Scott said, “this year we will focus on [get­ting the sci­en­tists] out in the field in Afghanistan and col­lect­ing ground geo­physics data with the equip­ment we pur­chased.”

Geo­physics is the study of Earth’s shape, grav­i­ta­tion, mag­net­ism, inter­nal struc­ture, com­po­si­tion and oth­er fea­tures. For the pur­pose of min­ing, geo­physi­cists can fig­ure out what’s in the ground by mea­sur­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the sur­face mate­r­i­al and the sub­sur­face rocks.

These include the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the sur­face mate­r­i­al and, for sub­sur­face rocks, elec­tri­cal con­duc­tiv­i­ty, tiny vari­a­tions in the earth’s mag­net­ic and grav­i­ty fields, and how dif­fer­ent rocks absorb light, called infrared spec­tral reflectance.

“Each rock has its own char­ac­ter­is­tic den­si­ty,” Dr. Vic­tor F. Lab­son, direc­tor of the USGS Crustal Geo­physics and Geo­chem­istry Sci­ence Cen­ter in Den­ver, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“By under­stand­ing the den­si­ty dis­tri­b­u­tion and under­stand­ing which rocks have what den­si­ty — and we [know] that from a hun­dred years of lab­o­ra­to­ry mea­sure­ments — we can then dis­cern what sort of rocks are in the sub­sur­face from the grav­i­ty vari­a­tions.”

The same thing is true for mag­net­ics, con­duc­tiv­i­ty and light absorp­tion, he added — each kind of rock responds dif­fer­ent­ly to each mea­sur­ing instru­ment.

These prop­er­ties can be mea­sured on the ground and, since 1943 when mag­net­ic anom­aly detec­tors were used on planes over the ocean to hunt for ene­my sub­marines dur­ing World War II, from the air.

The Afghan geo­physi­cists are being trained in ground geo­physics but the real need is to enable them to work with com­pa­nies that invest in explor­ing Afghan min­er­al deposits and bring in their own con­trac­tors to do the flights and data col­lec­tion.

“There’s a huge com­mer­cial indus­try that sup­ports air­borne geo­physics,” Lab­son said, “So we hope they’ll have the under­stand­ing and the abil­i­ty to write [spec­i­fi­ca­tions for and to mon­i­tor] con­tracts, and then inter­pret the data result­ing from air­borne sur­veys.”

The USGS has just com­plet­ed and pub­lished on its web­site more than 20 high­ly prospec­tive area reports for deposits in Afghanistan that seem to have par­tic­u­lar poten­tial, he said.

“The idea is to help cre­ate a sta­ble econ­o­my, that’s real­ly the under­ly­ing mis­sion of the task force,” Lab­son said.

“Devel­op­ing the resources would be an eco­nom­ic boost,” he added, “but there are a lot of jobs asso­ci­at­ed with it as well.”

Afghanistan’s Min­istry of Mines, sup­port­ed by the task force, made progress on its goals yes­ter­day in Lon­don at an inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence called Mines and Mon­ey.

There, the min­istry opened ten­der process­es, or auc­tions, for explo­ration and lat­er exploita­tion of four project areas with deposits con­tain­ing gold and cop­per.

“Afghanistan is a geo­log­i­cal­ly rich coun­try,” Min­is­ter of Mines Wahidul­lah Shahrani said yes­ter­day in a state­ment. “Assess­ments of only a frac­tion of the country’s land area indi­cate the poten­tial for con­sid­er­able min­er­al resources.”

What this means, Scott explained, “is that inter­na­tion­al investors will com­pete for each deposit for the next year.”

The com­pa­nies will have until March, she added, “to sub­mit what we call their expres­sions of inter­est, at which time we’ll begin qual­i­fy­ing the com­pa­nies and deter­min­ing who’s qual­i­fied to bid. Then they’ll be invit­ed to put bids togeth­er for each deposit.” The four cop­per and gold ten­ders will be mar­ket­ed in par­al­lel, Scott said. A lithi­um deposit in the Her­at province will be mar­ket­ed sep­a­rate­ly.

Of the first four deposits, one is a cop­per deposit in Her­at province called Shai­da, Zarkashan is a cop­per and gold deposit in Ghazni province, Badakhshan is a gold deposit in the country’s north, and Balkhab is a cop­per deposit in Sar-I-Pul and Balkh provinces. “These are explo­ration deposits„” Scott said, “so at this point the com­pa­nies will have to come in and do ground geo­physics, air­borne geo­physics and drilling in order for them to come to a val­ue on the deposit at that lev­el.” She added: “Cop­per and gold deposits of this size tend to be worth bil­lions of dol­lars.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →