Afghan gold

Afghan gold

So you thought that Osama Bin Laden's death will see America leave Afghanistan? Think again. There is one very good reason they want to stay there.

Fortune reports that one of the world's biggest investment banks JP Morgan is now scouring Afghanistan for gold. The country apparently has massive gold reserves and the Pentagon is giving the investment bank a helping hand.

JP Morgan says it isn't putting any of its own money into the project. It's secured $40 million from investors in the US, Asia, and Europe.

The reality is that these reserves have always been there and have attracted interest from all the invaders. Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of iron, copper, rare earth metals, and gold are buried beneath Afghanistan's deserts and mountains. It's been there undisturbed for thousands of years as armies of Persians, Greeks, Mongols, Britons, Russians, and now Americans rode and tramped over it. Dreams of Afghan gold go right back to the times of Alexander the Great. But no one has ever come close to getting it. So why would the Americans be more likely to get it?

Ian Hannam, chairman of JP Morgan Capital Markets, believes Afghanistan is "one of the last great natural-resource frontiers.". He is absolutely right but there are lots of reasons why they are not going to get it.

General David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, told the New York Times: "There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant."

Here are some of the "ifs". Shawn Hackett, founder and president of Hackett Financial Advisors, a money management firm with a specialization in commodities, told Minyanville that mining for gold was long, hard and risky. "It takes years to adequately scope a mine's potential. Even if the numbers turn out to be true, it will be five to 10 years before such mines reach production. In such a highly unstable country like Afghanistan I can easily see wars over who gets to keep the money. Long term there might be a bearish impact. Short term impact is zero in my opinion."

Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the third most corrupt country in the world. Which means the chances of getting the stuff out are remote.

Like the Greek, the English, the Russians and Persians, America is unlikely to find the gold. But the problem is it's likely to keep them there for longer.


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