Geologist: Afghan soil could contain lithium worth billions

COLLEGE STATION—Afghanistan has mineral deposits that could potentially turn it from being one of the poorest countries on Earth to one of the richest, according to reports, and industrial metals such as copper and lithium could put the wartorn country in high demand for high-tech industry, says a Texas A&M University geologist.

Bruce Herbert, assistant head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, says reports that as much as $1 trillion worth of minerals may lie in Afghan soils are really not surprising. U.S. officials have surveyed the area and concluded that vast amounts of iron, copper, gold, cobalt and lithium are likely plentiful in the region.

“Soviet geologists first surveyed

Afghanistan for economically important minerals,” Herbert says. “The U.S. Geological Survey started surveying the country in 2004. Afghanistan has all sorts of valuable minerals, and if the accounts of lithium are true, it could be a tremendous boost for their economic future.”

If you own a BlackBerry or other cell phone, a laptop computer or even a flashlight, you are a user of lithium.

The soft, silvery-looking metal is in high demand in high-tech times and deposits of it could mean instant wealth.

“Lithium is found in two sources—one is in volcanic rocks, and the other is in desert areas, such as those found in Afghanistan,” Herbert explains.

“Argentina and Chile have significant amounts, in the U.S. it’s found mainly in Nevada, and China has some. But it’s a relatively rare mineral and there’s not much of it in the world, so any new deposits are always welcome.

“Most of the batteries in cell phones or laptop computers have lithium in them, so the demand for it has skyrocketed in recent years and will likely continue to do so,” he adds. “Even many of the common flashlight batteries have lithium in them.

“New technology seems to be driven by lithium.”

A derivative of the mineral is also used by the drug industry to treat depression, bipolar disorders and migraine headaches.

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