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PDAC 2019: Risk vs Reward - The Mineral Prospectivity of Afghanistan

Mining in Afghanistan extends back thousands of years.

New Destinations in Mineral Exploration   Tuesday, March 5   |   3:40 - 4:05 pm     Room 713

The recent turbulent history of Afghanistan is well documented. Less well-known is that mining in Afghanistan extends back thousands of years, and that the country once produced and exported a huge variety of minerals including gold, copper, precious stones, and the highly prized vivid blue lapis lazuli which has been found as artefacts in sites in ancient Egypt.

Although the political situation in Afghanistan remains complex and turbulent, what is undeniable is the extraordinary mineral wealth of the country which has remained comparatively underexplored compared with many jurisdictions around the world. Exploration in Soviet times identified several major deposits across the country, and more recent efforts by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and particularly the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have helped to highlight the significant potential of this mineral-rich nation, although no significant on-the-ground detailed exploration has occurred since the Soviet withdrawal in 1980.

Afghanistan sits along the Tethyan Belt which is well known for its mineral endowment. It is a near certainty that significant metallogenic belts remain unidentified within the country. Many deposit types have already been identified in Afghanistan including porphyry, skarn and VMS-hosted deposits amongst many others.

The government of Afghanistan, supported by funding from a variety of donor organisations, is attempting to encourage a regulated mining industry to be developed in the country but progress has been slow. The world-class sediment-hosted Aynak copper deposit was tendered by the Afghan Government and awarded to MCC of China in November 2007 for $3Bn with a 30-year mining life. However, work has been delayed for various political reasons plus the discovery of historical relics on site. New mining licences have recently been awarded in other parts of the country, for example to develop the Shaida porphyry copper deposit near Herat, and it is hoped that this is the start of a modern mining industry.

There is undoubtedly significant potential for exploration companies to locate major deposits in country. However, despite improvements in the security of tenure and in the growth of a small service industry, Afghanistan will remain a very challenging country to operate in.


James Gilbertson
James Gilbertson
Managing Director and Principal Geologist
James has over 16 years' experience in target generation, exploration programme design, management and supervision, and mineral resource estimation.  He has extensive experience of grassroots exploration in Africa and Eurasia, and specialises in the provision of industry strategy development, technical support, training and advice for both commercial and government/ministerial organisations.

James joined SRK Consulting (UK) Ltd in 2005 as a Resource Geologist before moving to SRK Exploration in 2008.  Following three years in South America as the Resource Manager and Head of Geology at SRK Consulting Peru, James returned to SRK ES in 2016 to take up the position of Managing Director.

pdac 2019


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