Officials in Afghanistan are hoping the reported discovery of vast mineral wealth in the war-shattered country will unite Afghans and help eliminate poverty, seen as a major reason for the conflict.
A group of U.S geologists has discovered the untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, which include gold, iron, copper, lithium and cobalt. The New York Times newspaper reported the discovery Monday.
Afghan presidential spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters in Kabul Monday the U.S Geological agency, under contract to the Afghan government, conducted the survey of the mineral fields in the country.
"The result of the survey, which is I think the best news we have had over many years here in Afghanistan, has shown that Afghanistan has mineral reserves worth $1 trillion," Omar said.
The spokesman for President Hamid Karzai says he hopes the "big news" will bring the Afghan people together for a cause that will benefit everyone.
"This is an economic interest that will benefit all Afghans and will benefit Afghanistan in the long run," Omar said. "One reason for the war, which is poverty, might well be addressed by this."
The New York Times quoted U.S. officials as saying the untapped mineral resources could eventually transform Afghanistan into one of the most important mining centers in the world. These officials are quoted as saying the deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, lithium, and niobium, are enough to "fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war."
The report says the team of American geologists used charts and information gathered by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Presidential spokesman Omar says the government is working closely with all the relevant ministries to put in place a plan to extract the minerals, saying the wealth is enough to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country.
U.S. and Afghan officials say that large gold deposits are located in southern Afghanistan known as strongholds of Taliban insurgents.