Lithium – The Future For Afghanistan

Posted on Mon 06/14/2010 by

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AFGHANISTAN – THE SAUDI ARABIA OF LITHIUM.

Afghanistan could be viewed as one of the most Godforsaken places on the Planet.

Starting in 1979, the Russians waged war there and then ignominiously retreated 9 years and three months later.

Then the Taliban waged a long and brutal war to take power.

Then, in October of 2001, the U.S. went into Afghanistan along with elements from other Countries as well. Those forces are still there, and in all reality will probably be there for many years yet.

In this most inhospitable of Countries, what future can there be?

Well, a story that came out overnight shows that there might be a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel, and this time, it’s not the light of an approaching locomotive.

This shows that there might actually be some future for this Country.

I don’t claim to know what the root causes of this interminable conflict might have been, what they are today, and I most certainly do not claim to have any answers for their future. However, now it seems that there may actually be a way forward for Afghanistan.

This story came out during the last 24 hours and has been covered by some of the media outlets, and this is the link to one of those media releases, this from the NYT.

Vast stores of minerals have been found in Afghanistan. These minerals have a potential value approaching $US1 Trillion, and for a Country with an annual gross domestic product of barely $12 Billion, this looks to be a way forward for the Country. Foremost among those minerals are huge deposits of Iron Ore and Copper, and also include many minerals that are essential to modern industry. The list of those minerals is as long as your arm. The largest deposits, and probably the easiest to start up would be the Iron Ore, and also the huge deposits of Copper.

However, among that extended list of other minerals is Lithium, and this one probably provides the most encouragement and the greatest future.

It is predicted that Afghanistan might even be transformed into one of the most important mining centres in the World.

Currently, the largest known deposits of Lithium are in the South American landlocked Country of Bolivia. These new deposits located in Afghanistan dwarf those Bolivian deposits by a quantum level.

Lithium has become one of the most important materials of modern times, especially in this time of such fast advances in electronics.

It is used mainly in modern Battery technology. Lithium batteries charge more readily, hold their charge better and longer, and weight for wight when compared to other batteries, they are a lot lighter. They are now being used in modern electronic applications, specifically cell phones, Cameras, Laptop Computers and Notebooks, and the newer applications of these, namely Ipads etc.

They are also coming into more widespread use in the portable hand tool area, enabling lighter tools to be used. They maintain the tool’s full capability right up to the point the batteries go flat, a huge advantage over other batteries in this application, and then can be more readily charged on a speedy basis, crucial in portable tool use.

These batteries also have a future in automobile technology, especially for electric cars and Hybrids. What is currently holding back major advances in electric vehicle technology, as well as for Hybrid cars is the fact that they need to have large banks of batteries. Lithium batteries considerably lessen the weight of those battery banks. The trouble here is that these batteries are vastly more expensive than any other type of battery, and that expense then adds considerably to the overall price of these types of vehicles. If Lithium in greater quantities was available then it stands to reason that more of these batteries can be constructed, further placing a downward pressure on costs, bringing these vehicles more into the realm of the average buyer, and not just for niche market vehicles available to those who can afford them.

Currently the use of Lithium in these battery applications is limited by the availability of the ore itself. Because of that, then competition for use of Lithium means that costs for products using these batteries is high. When these huge deposits do come on line, then that technology area will boom.

This is why these new deposits found in Afghanistan are so exciting.

Some sources say that when it comes to the Lithium capability, Afghanistan could become the Saudi Arabia of Lithium.

It won’t happen overnight, but it will start to come on line over the next few years.

The potential is astronomical, and if and when these deposits start to be mined, then the future actually might be an encouraging thing to look forward to for those who live in the Country.

In a Country with unemployment in the high double digits, the only thing to do is be recruited to fight in the interminable wars or work in the poppy fields, that source of that scourge of Society, the drug Heroin, probably making Afghanistan the largest producer of Heroin on the Planet.

Any mining will take years to start up, but when it does, and if on the scale perceived, then it will be a source of actual jobs for the people of Afghanistan, and because these deposits cover many minerals and in such huge quantities, then the prospect may be that there will be jobs to go around for more than the few currently in work now.

Large Worldwide mining companies must be eying off these new finds hungrily, as it will be them who will be providing the exploration and development money, and be looking in that Country for a work force.

How these vast deposits of minerals came to light is an interesting story in itself.

Afghan Geologists in concert with those from Russia surveyed a lot of these mineral deposits, and raised detailed charts. When Russia withdrew and the Taliban took over, those Geologists carefully guarded those charts, some taking them home with them, and secreting them. When the Taliban were overthrown and US forces came in, those charts surfaced again. Now that Afghanistan is looking for a way forward, further and more detailed investigations were carried out and more areas surveyed, and the vast extent of these deposits has now come to light.

The Pentagon in concert with the current Afghan Government are now looking to this as the way ahead.

It might just provide a future for this Country, so long considered a basket case. China especially may be looking in this direction as a source, especially for the vast Iron ore deposits.

However, those Lithium deposits might just be something that actually could secure for Afghanistan some future, and that of itself is some of the best news to come out of Afghanistan for a long time.

Let’s hope against hope that something like this can be not only a benefit for a World in need of the raw materials to extend our electronic future, but to provide a future for everyday Afghans.

No one deserves it more than them after so long under so many wars.

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