Is Lithium the Answer to Afghanistan’s Problems?

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Chad Hunt/Corbis

Remote (and volatile) regions of the war-torn country may hold as much as $1 trillion in lithium and other minerals, according to a report in today’s New York Times.

The the deposits are so vast that a Pentagon memo says Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” the Times reports. Lithium is used frequently in battery production and in some medical applications.

U.S officials are hopeful that the deposits, which include sizable amounts of gold, iron and copper, will attract investment and jobs to the country, still staggered from decades of war and and recent conflict with the Taliban. U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said the resources represent “stunning potential” but other officials warn that the lucrative deposits may actually lead to more fighting, as the Taliban could vie with the Afghani government for control of the mineral-rich regions.

Afghanistan also has little infrastructure — industrial, legal or otherwise — to encourage or manage the excavation process. Don’t expect the mineral riches to start benefiting the country any time soon. (via the New York Times)