The “Great Game” a term popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his novel, Kim, to characterize the intense rivalry between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over dominance in Afghanistan and Central Asia, seems particularly appropriate now that it has been revealed by the Pentagon that a trillion dollars worth of rare and valuable minerals deposits are in Afghanistan. But, this has not been a secret to many.
In January 1984 a report was published by the chief engineer of the Afghan Geological Survey Department about Soviet uranium mining in Afghanistan. It revealed that uranium production had begun after the discovery of deposits in 1983.
Soviet engineers were also said to be mining uranium between Herat and Shindand, and also in Kandahar province. The uranium projects were restricted to Soviet personnel in order to maintain secrecy and security. It is believed that all production was sent to the Soviet Union.
By 1985 Soviet surveys had also revealed potentially useful deposits of asbestos, nickel, mercury, lead, zinc, bauxite, lithium, and rubies. The Afghan government in the mid-1980’s was preparing to develop a number of these resources on a large scale with Soviet technical assistance. These efforts were directed primarily at the country’s large iron and copper reserves.
The iron ore deposits contained an estimated 1.7 billion tons of mixed hematite and magnetite, averaging 62 percent iron. These reserves, among the world’s largest, are located almost 4,000 meters up in the Hindu Kush, in Bamiyan Province.
Source: Illinois Institute of Technology
A 2007 report by the USGS said most of the data on Afghanistan’s mineral resources was produced between the early 1950’s and 1985. The timing of the Pentagon’s announcement is interesting because the findings on which the story was based are online and have been since 2007.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines has information on this website about mineral deposits in the country . http://www.bgs.ac.uk/afghanminerals/raremetal.htm
There is little doubt that the new version of the Great Game will include all the players during Kipling’s time, plus the U.S., China, India, and any other country who seeks an advantage in obtaining a slice of the Afghan pie. There will be “invaders” waiting to pounce on any opportunity that presents itself.
We can only hope that the Afghan people who have suffered for decades, will get the benefits they so richly deserve.