They’re not so new a discovery. Wired:
One retired senior U.S official is calling the government’s mineral announcement “pretty silly,” Politico is reporting. “When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970s the [U.S. government], the Russians, the World Bank, the U.N. and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits. Cheap ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting factor.”
At least two American geologists have been advising the Pentagon on Afghanistan’s wealth of mineral resources for years. Bonita Chamberlin, a geologist who spent 25 years working in Afghanistan, “identified 91 minerals, metals and gems at 1,407 potential mining sites,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2001. In 1995, she even co-wrote a book, “Gemstones in Afghanistan,” on the topic. And Chamberlin worked directly with the Pentagon, after they commissioned her to report on sandstone and limestone caves mere weeks after 9/11.
“I am quite surprised that the military is announcing this as some ‘new’ and ’surprising” discovery,’ she told Danger Room in an e-mail. “This is NOT new. Perhaps this also hints at the real reason why we would be so intent on this war.”
And Jack Shroder, a geologist at the University of Nebraska, told the Associated Press in 2001 that mineral deposits in Afghanistan were so rich, they could be vital in rebuilding the country. He’s collaborated with Pentagon officials since the 1970s, when he worked on mapping the country. In 2002, Shroder was approached by several American companies who hoped to start mining the area.
It’s not clear exactly what those experts shared with military honchos, but the Pentagon’s knowledge of Afghanistan’s minerals clearly preceded the 2004 discovery of “an intriguing series of old charts and data,” as the Times reports. In 2002, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the U.S. Department of Interior’s Mineral Yearbook, among other atlases, noted Afghanistan’s “significant deposits of gold, precious stones and other minerals waiting to be mined.”
But whatever the U.S military knows, and no matter how long they’ve known it, Russia likely has ‘em beat. At a 2002 conference on rebuilding Afghanistan, reps from several countries complained that Russia continued to withhold decades-old information about mineral deposits in the country.