The world needs chromite and lithium. Afghanistan has them. What happens next? – by Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times – November 2022)

LOGAR, Afghanistan — Somewhere in the Logar Mountains, overlooking the highway to Kabul, Asadullah Massoud trudged up to a four-story-tall cleft. Before him was a monochromatic pattern of gray stone, save for a seam of dull, almost-black rocks. “Look there. See that black line?” he said. “That’s chromite.”

An explosion thumped in the distance. Massoud looked up at the sound, but appeared unconcerned. That’s not fighting. We’re mining with the open-surface method, putting explosives and going from hill to hill,” he said.

A reserved man with tinted glasses and a helmet of brown hair, Massoud is the site manager at the Mughulkhil mine, where workers extract chromite, an ore that yields chromium, a vital component of stainless steel. It’s one of many mining operations underway here in the eastern Afghan province of Logar and across the country, which is believed to sit atop mineral deposits so vast that the Taliban is touting them as a panacea for Afghanistan’s economic ills.

Those potential subterranean riches have also sent foreign powers such as China, Russia and Iran scrambling for a share — but not the U.S., which officially refuses to deal with the rulers of the new “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” who took charge after Western forces withdrew from the then-Afghan republic last year. That has left nations largely hostile to the U.S., plus a few friendlier ones such as Turkey and Qatar, poised to exploit a mammoth supply of natural resources, and sparked concern among some American officials about being shut out.

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