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Potential Bonanza For Afghan People

Afghanistan has huge untapped natural energy and mineral resources which have enormous potential for economic development and national growth.

According to Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani, "Afghanistan has huge untapped natural energy and mineral resources which have enormous potential for our economic development and national growth. Ensuring this is done in the most transparent and efficient way whilst delivering the greatest value to the country is a priority for the Government."

A recent U.S. Department of Defense Briefing described Afghanistan as having a trillion dollars’ worth of untapped mineral wealth, often in hard to access deposits, all over the country.

This is not a new development, nor does it mean that the country will quickly be able to tap into its vast mineral potential. "Turning the potential of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth into actual revenue will take years," said U.S. Department of State spokesman P. J. Crowley. "We know that the extraction efforts are challenged by remote locations, some of which are in areas suffering from insurgent attacks on the Afghan people and infrastructure. There’s limited transportation and power. We are actively helping the Afghan government to overcome these hurdles so that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth can benefit the Afghan people," he said.

Afghanistan must be careful to avoid what some experts call "the resource curse." This term describes a situation where countries with vast natural resources, but with a tenuous legal structure and an uneasy relationship between provincial and national authorities, experience little economic growth and larger disparities in wealth.

Many countries have successfully boosted their economies by harnessing their natural resources to fuel equitable growth. But these countries did so by adopting norms of transparency between the government, companies, civil society, and its people. Increased transparency and accountability help to address grievances and inequitable natural resource distribution. Balanced growth also requires disciplined and creative economic solutions to prevent natural resource proceeds from distorting the economy and to channel income from minerals into investments in social and industrial improvements.

Minister Shahrani explains that the Afghan Ministry of Mines "has been working closely with the international organizations including the World Bank, US Geological Survey and the international mining and finance community, for some time to ensure all of the Afghan people benefit from the rich natural resources for decades to come."

"How do you marshal those resources to the benefit of the Afghan people?" asked U.S. State Department Spokesman Crowley. "This is going to be a long-term proposition. ... It will be central to develop the effective processes of government so that resources aren’t to the benefit of the few; they’re to the benefit of the many."