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India invited to join Afghan mineral hunt

Barely two days after reports from the United States suggested that Afghanistan has untapped mineral resources worth $1 trillion (Rs 45 lakh crore), the war-ravaged country has invited India to bid for and develop its mines to feed India's burgeoning steel industry. Sumant Banerji reports.

business Updated: Jun 16, 2010 22:41 IST
Sumant Banerji

Barely two days after reports from the United States suggested that Afghanistan has untapped mineral resources worth $1 trillion (Rs 45 lakh crore), the war-ravaged country has invited India to bid for and develop its mines to feed India's burgeoning steel industry.

Afghanistan, which currently has a government considered friendly to India, is hosting a roadshow on iron ore, one of the main raw materials in the production of steel, in London on June 25, where 200 companies including those from India have been invited. Global heavyweights Rio Tinto, BHP Biliton and Vale will also be in attendance.

"Afghanistan has a lot of untapped mineral resources which we are now inviting big global companies to come and exploit," said Wahuidullah Shahrani, minister of mines, Afghanistan.

"The roadshow is intended to showcase what we have and I am confident at least a few Indian companies would want to invest."

A recent study by US geologists found Afghanistan had reserves of valuable minerals on a larger scale than previously believed. The value of the minerals, which include lithium, iron, gold, niobium, mercury and cobalt, was estimated at about a trillion dollar.

In January, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had said that the deposits could help one of the world's most impoverished nations become one of the richest. The reserves have hardly been exploited or examined largely as the country lies in one of the world's most unstable regions flanked by Pakistan and Iran. The country is embroiled in a militant insurgency led by the Taliban.

Afghanistan is likely to invite bids for its mines in the next few months and Shahrani has sought India's assistance for exchange of know-how and expertise in the mining sector, besides help from the Geological Survey of India for mapping its resources.

"Afghanistan is rich in minerals like lithium, iron ore, copper, cobalt, chromite and the whole country is yet to be fully explored," he said.