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    World's largest copper mine found in Sar-i-Pul

    KABUL (PAN): The world's largest copper mine was discovered in northern Sar-i-Pul province, the mines minister said on Saturday.

    Several new mineral-rich sites, with estimated deposits of about $250 billion, had been found in six other provinces, he added.

    Launched in 2006, a US Geological Survey (USGS), jointly conducted with the Ministry of Mines, was completed last year. The survey covers 30 percent of the country.

    "The survey provides credible information on mines in 28 different parts of Afghanistan," Wahidullah Shahrani told reporters in Kabul.

    It showed the world's largest copper deposits existed in Balkhab district of Sar-i-Pul, the minister said, without giving a specific figure for the deposits.

    The copper mine was discovered near a river, an area which might hold gold reserves as well, Shahrani believed.

    Citing the report, the minister said two new copper mines in Logar and Herat provinces had been discovered. The value of the Logar pit, not the Ainak mine, is estimated at $43 billion.

    Copper and gold mines worth of $30 billion were discovered in the Zarkasho area of Ghazni and lithium pits of $20 billion in Farah and Nimroz provinces, Shahwani said.

    Lithium is used as a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and costly mobile phone sets.

    A deposit of beryllium, which is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel used in airplanes, helicopters, ships, missiles, and space craft, has been found in the Khanashin district of southern Helmand province. The reserves are estimated at $88 billion.

    Shahrani said they planned to open the newly discovered mines for biding with the approval of the Cabinet later this year. Efforts are being made to conduct the bidding process in a transparent way.

    A mining cadastre office is also being established with the help of US Geological Survey (USGS), he said, adding information about mines would be provided to the countrymen through a website.

    Also present on the occasion, Paul Brinkley, the US Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, said the survey cost tens of millions of dollars. He hoped with the extraction of mines, Afghanistan's economy will improve a lot. He said the countrymen would have more job opportunities

    "It would be mines which will enable Afghanistan to stop seeking foreign assistance," he said.

    He said they also worked to boost the capacity of Afghan mine workers to enable them to develop mines on their own in the future.

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