Dear President Trump, Afghanistan’s Minerals Aren’t Very Valuable, They’re Really Not – by Tim Worstall (Forbes Magazine – July 27, 2017)

This is almost amusing actually, Donald Trump is reported, in the New York Times, as thinking that Afghanistan’s valuable mineral deposits might be a good reason for the US to stay in that country. The humour here coming from the role of the New York Times in misreporting the value of the minerals in Afghanistan some 7 years ago. True, they weren’t the original source but they certainly propagated the mistake enthusiastically.

The point being that there are a lot of rocks in Afghanistan, those rocks contain metals and if the metals were out of the rocks and out of Afghanistan then they’d be valuable. But they’re not out and out, the metals are still in the rocks in Afghanistan and thus aren’t valuable. As we can tell from the fact that no one is lining up to pay for them.

Thus the idea that the US should stay there in order to aid in exploiting this value doesn’t really work out, there’s no value to be exploiting. This is the bit the NY Times just doesn’t get:

Trump has talked with President Ashraf Ghani about possible opportunities for American mining companies in Afghanistan, according to a report by The New York Times. Three of Trump’s senior aides also met with Michael N. Silver, an executive at the chemicals firm American Elements, about the possibilities for mining rare-earth materials in that country.

American officials initially estimated that Afghanistan’s mineral deposits could be valued at as much as $1 trillion, although that number has been revised downward since. Well, yes, but the value hasn’t been revised downward enough. To a reasonable level of accuracy the current value of those Afghan mineral deposits is zero.

For the rest of this article: