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Afghan President offers mineral resources to Japan

media An Afghan miner walking up to the emerald mines in the mountains of the … Reuters

Afghan President Hamid Karzai launched a sales pitch in Japan on Friday for his country's rich mineral resources, calling for Japanese companies to invest in mines. US estimates say Afghanistan underground resources are worth about a trillion dollars, but the country's mining minister says it's closer to three trillion.

Karzai said he was planning to meet with representatives of Japan's major trading house Mitsubishi Corp. later in the day to discuss possible future exploitation of the deposits.

Jonathan Boone, Kabul 18/06/2010 - by Salil Sarkar Listen

Correspondent Jonathan Boone said tender agreements are likely to go Chinese state companies. There has already been one three billion-dollar deal with a state-owned Chinese metal company, the first ever tender arrangement for a copper mine in the country.

“It’s one of the world’s largest open cast copper mines and one of the world’s highest quality mines,” said Boone. “The Afghan ministry says they have three other sites of similar size. This Chinese state company has already gone where many foreign investors might fear to tread and Afghanistan, certainly in the short to medium term, may well have to rely on the Chinese who are prepared to take much bigger risks than private companies would probably be prepared to take.”

The minister of mines is meeting international investors to discuss mining rights for the Hajijak iron ore deposit in Banyan in London on Thursday. This is widely expected to be taken up by Chinese investors, too.

The results of the US geological survey said Afghanistan had huge reserves of lithium, iron, copper, gold, mercury, cobalt and other minerals potentially worth nearly one trillion dollars.

"So the prospects of Afghanistan is massively great and good," Karzai said. "Whereas Saudi Arabia is the oil capital of the world, Afghanistan will be the lithium capital of the world. Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years," he said.

Japan is Afghanistan’s biggest donor after the United States. Last year it pledged up to five billion dollars in aid by 2013 to rebuild the country

Karzai thanked new Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday for Japan's support.

Kan said the aid must "be used to the benefit of the Afghan people and to achieve global peace."

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