(Map) Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN (RU: Афганистан), the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, is the country within the South-Western Asia, at the Middle East. It borders the USSR to the north, Iran to the west, Pakistan and India to the south and east, China to the north-east. The area is 647.5 thousand square kilometres. The population is 15.9 million persons (1981). The capital city is Kabul. The territory of Afghanistan is divided into the 28 provinces (wilayat). The official languages are Pashto and Dari. The currency is the Afghani.

General characteristic of the economy. Within the structure of the GDP (1979/80), the share of the agriculture and forestry accounts for 60.3%, of the mining-extracting industry for 20%, of the construction for 5.4%, of the commerce and services for 7.4%, of the transport and communications for 3.7%. Approximately half of the gross industrial produce is created at the artisanal and semi-artisanal enterprises. The major branches of the industry, namely, the gas, coal, printing, woodworking, chemical, and electrical power industries, are controlled by the government; the enterprises of the light industry and artisanal crafts are in the hands of the private entrepreneurs. Within the fuel-energy balance of the country, there hold the leading position the natural gas and mineral coal (together approximately 90%). The production of the electrical power is 910 million kilowatt-hours (1980/81).

The major type of the transport is automobile, the length of the automobile roads is 18.5 thousand kilometres, including 9.8 thousand kilometres with artificial pavement (1981). The length of the railways is 5.5 kilometres, the length of the gas pipelines is 189 kilometres.

Nature. The large part of the territory of Afghanistan is covered by the mountains. The most high mountainous part is the East, the Hindu Kush, with the peaks of more than 6.5 kilometres of height, on the slopes of which are situated the glaciers. The south-western Afghanistan is covered by the non-draining hilly plain (the height is 500-1000 metres), part of which is covered by the Registan desert. There is situated at the north of the country the piedmont loess Bactrian plain (300 metres). The climate of Afghanistan is arid, sharply continental. The average temperature of January is 0-8 degrees Celsius at the plains, sometimes less than -20 degrees Celsius at the high mountains, and during July, 24-32 degrees Celsius at the plains, approximately 10 degrees Celsius at the high mountains (2500-4000 metres). The precipitation is from 200 millimetres at the plains to 800 millimetres at the mountains. The main rivers are the Amu Darya, Murghab, Hari Rud, Helmand, Kabul. The rivers are shallow, and dry during the summer time of the year. The vegetation is mostly desertic and semi-desertic.

Geological structure. The large part of the territory of Afghanistan is situated within the limits of the Mediterranean geosynclinal belt. There is located at the north the Turanian epi-hercynian tectonic plate, the folded foundation of which is exposed within the ranges of the Hindu Kush and Paropamisus, where are known the deposits of the ores of iron, gold, the ore manifestations of copper, tungsten, and others. The sedimentary and volcanogenic-sedimentary complexes of the Meso-Cenozoic cover of the tectonic plate cover the significant areas at the north of the country within the limits of the Bactrian plain and of the northern foothills of the Hindu Kush and Paropamisus (the deposits of the mineral coal, sulfur, rock salt, celestite, gypsum, oil and gas, skarnous gold-copper mineralization).

The large part of the central Afghanistan occupies the region of the Mesozoic folding, within the limits of which are known the hydrothermal ore manifestations of copper, polymetals, tin, mercury, iron, chromites, asbestos. The eastern part of the country, within the limits of the Baluchistan mountains, belongs to the region of the Alpine folding. At the east and north-east of the central Afghanistan are situated the ancient (pre-Paleozoic) solidified blocks (median massifs): Helmand-Argandab, Kabul, Pamir-Nuristan, where form the cover of which the variously-aged (Vendian-Paleogene) sedimentary and volcanogenic-sedimentary formations. Here have been identified the deposits and manifestations of the ores of copper, tin, gold, and also of the lapis lazuli, precious and semi-precious stones, phosphates, graphite. The territory of Afghanistan is characterized by the high seismicity, especially the regions of the Badakhshan (earthquakes with magnitude of up to 7.5, the depth of the focuses is more than 100 kilometres), and also of the Balochistan and Kabul (destructive earthquakes with the shallow depth of the focuses).

Hydrogeology. There are distinguished on the territory of Afghanistan the North-Afghan and South-Afghan artesian regions, and also the Central-Afghan hydrogeological folded region. The complex geological structure, the uniqueness of the hydrogeological, geochemical, climatic conditions within Afghanistan, have determined the development here of the following types of the mineral waters: the carbon dioxide (nitrogen-carbon dioxide) cold and thermal ones, which are confined to the zones of the deep faults; the nitrogen thermal ones, which are confined to the zones of the crackedness within the contacts of the granitic massifs; the sulfide thermal waters of the oil-and-gas-bearing structures, gypsum-bearing and salt-bearing depositions. Within the cold carbon dioxide fractured-veinous waters of the certain sources, there are contained the industrial concentrations of the rare elements. At the west and at the centre of the country, there are situated the salty lakes, the brine of which contains the increased quantities of the lithium and boron.

(Table 1) The reserves of the major useful minerals (start of the 1982)
Useful minerals Reserves The content of the useful component
explored forecasted
Oil, million tonnes 13 - -
Natural gas, billion cubic metres 142 - -
Mineral coal, million tonnes 500 - -
Iron ores, million tonnes 428.0 2400 47-68
Copper ores (1), million tonnes 5.0 - 2
Beryllium ores (2), thousand tonnes 15.669 - 0.04-0.08
Lithium ores (2), thousand tonnes - 3972.0 0.4-2.2
Magnesite, million tonnes 25 40 44
Sulphur, million tonnes - 580.0 40-80
Celestine, thousand tonnes - 1085.6 53-77
Fluorite, million tonnes 8.76 - 46.4
Asbestos, thousand tonnes 889.0 1550.0 -
Barite, thousand tonnes 1554.6 150-200 83-85
Lapis lazuli, tonnes 206.7 1295.1 -
Marble onyx, thousand cubic metres 920 (3) - -
(1) In terms of the extracted metal, (2) In terms of oxides, (3) Estimate

Useful minerals. On the territory of Afghanistan, there are known the deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, ores of iron, copper, rare metals, placer gold, semi-precious and precious stones, barite, celestite, sulfur, talc, magnesite, rock salt, fluxing and cement raw materials, and non-metallic building materials (Table 1).

At the north of the country, there have been discovered and explored the fields of oil (Angote, the total reserves are 7.2 million tonnes; Kashkari, 7 million tonnes) and gas (Khoja Gugerdag, the balance reserves are 67 billion cubic metres; Djarkuduk, 32 billion cubic metres).

The major coal-bearing places are situated at the north, where are known 20 coal manifestations, which are confined to the depositions of the Triassic and Jurassic. There prevail the non-coking varieties (for the coke-chemical production, there are suitable only approximately 6 million tonnes). The largest deposits are: the Shabashek (the total reserves are more than 50 million tonnes), Darwaza (20 million tonnes), Karkar and Dood-kash (12-15 million tonnes).

The mineral resources base of the ferrous metallurgy has been studied not well enough; there has been explored at the north the large Hadzhigek deposit of the iron ores (the balance reserves are 428 million tonnes, the content of Fe is 62-68%), and also the series of the promising ore manifestations of iron. The ore bodies are confined to the effusive-schistose stratum of the Paleozoic. Within the immediate vicinity of the Hadzhigek deposit, there exist the deposits of the fluxing limestones (the forecasted reserves are 3.5 million tonnes) and refractory dolomites (7.5 million tonnes).

The reserves of the ores of the non-ferrous metals (except copper) within Afghanistan are insignificant. There has been explored within the country the Aynak deposit of the copper ores, one of the largest within the South Asia (the reserves are more than 5.0 million tonnes, the content of Cu is 2%). At the east of the country (within the Nuristan and Badakhshan), there are situated the deposits of the ores of the rare elements (beryllium, tantalum, niobium, lithium), which are associated with pegmatites (Darai-Pich, the total reserves of beryllium are 15.6 thousand tonnes, the content of BeO is 0.05%). There are known the deposits of barite (Sangilyan, the total reserves are 1.5 million tonnes, the content of BaS04 is 85%), salt, magnesite and talc (Achin, 40 million tonnes), celestite (Tangi-Murch, 85 million tonnes), gold (Zarkashan, 4.8 tonnes, the content of gold is 6.9 grams per tonne).

There are known on the territory of Afghanistan the deposits of the precious and semi-precious stones, namely, the best within the world jewellery and semi-precious lapis lazuli, high quality marble onyx, kunzite, jewellery tourmaline, ruby and emerald.

The unique Sary-Sang deposit of lapis lazuli within the basin of the Kokcha river (Badakhshan province) is associated with the skarnous marbles and calciphyres, which belong to the pre-Cambrian dolomite-gneissic stratum of the Faizabad median massif. There has the industrial significance the extended lapis-lazuli-bearing zone (the explored reserves are 206.7 tonnes).

The region of the development of the dolomitic marbles within the deposit is promising for the identification of the new ore bodies, and for the significant growth of the reserves of lapis lazuli. The deposits of the marble onyx Malik Dukan and others within the Registan desert (Helmand province) are represented by the tabular depositions within the sedimentary-volcanogenic depositions of the Cretaceous and red sandstones of the Neogene. There is known within the granitic pegmatites of the Nuristan the deposit of the kunzite and jewellery tourmaline (Darai-Pich, and others).

There are less studied, or have relatively small reserves, the deposits of ruby within the skarnous calcite-dolomitic marbles (within the Kabul province), of emerald within the Paleozoic carbonate-schistose stratum.

(Table 2) The extraction of the major types of the mineral raw materials
The type of the mineral raw material 1950 1960 1970 1980
Natural gas (marketable), billion cubic metres - - 2.5 2.6
Mineral coal, thousand tonnes 14 100 200 200
Rock salt, thousand tonnes 35 26.3 38 20*
Lapis lazuli, tonnes 1.0 1.8 7 -
* The data are for the 1979

History of mastering of mineral resources. The most ancient evidences of the mining craft within Afghanistan, which are associated with the usage of stone for the crafting of implements, belong to the Lower Paleolithic (approximately 700-500 thousand years ago). Since the epoch of the Neolithic (4-5 thousand years BC), there are widely used clays for the building of the dwellings, and for the crafting of the crockery. They use copper on the territory of Afghanistan since the 4th millennium BC, but the ore sources of this time are unknown. The extraction of the local copper and polymetallic ores for the mass usage of the copper and bronze implements has started, apparently, during the 2nd millennium BC. At the same time within Badakhshan they have started to extract lapis lazuli. They have started to develop the iron ores, apparently, since the 1st half of the 1st millennium BC (Achaemenid time), although the specific developments of this time are unknown. The medieval mine workings are known, for example, at the Zarkashan copper deposit, where have been found the mines with the depth of more than 150 metres, the debris of the lanterns, the remains of the wooden roof support. There have been found near the mine the stone crushers for the dry beneficiation of the ores. Slag dumps have been noted near the mines within the Central Afghanistan (Tulak, Kalai-Assad, and others). It is also possible, that during the same period there have been extracted within the Northern Afghanistan the coal, salt, and within the Southern Afghanistan the marble onyx.

Mining industry. There are being developed within the country the deposits of gas, coal, they extract in small quantities the mining-chemical raw materials, precious and semi-precious stones (Table 2 and map).

The extraction of the hard useful minerals is conducted mainly with the artisanal and semi-artisanal methods.

The most important branch of the industry is the extraction of gas. There is being developed the large Khoja Gugerdag field (it has been exhausted for 60%) and other fields within the region of the Mazar-i-Sharif city. The depth of the development is 2000-2500 metres. There works within the country the plant for the production of the mineral fertilizers from gas. During the end of the 70-ies, there has been commissioned the Dzharkuduk gas extracting and processing complex (near the Sheberghan city).

The second most significant mining-extracting industry is the coal industry. Mineral coal is being developed with the underground method, the depth of the development is 100-200 metres. It is planned to increase in the future the level of the extraction up to 400 thousand tonnes, mainly on the account of the expansion of the operation of the Karkar and other deposits. They extract within the country (1978) also in small quantities the iron ores - 0.5 million tonnes, barite - 13 thousand tonnes (Sangilyan deposit), talc, marble onyx, lapis lazuli (Sary-Sang deposit). There is conducted the artisanal extraction of gold, sulfur, marble, gypsum, and so on. There is intensively prepared for operation the Aynak deposit of the copper ores, on the base of which is planned to build the beneficiation plant. The operation of the largest Hadzhigek deposit of the ores of iron is hampered by the complicated economical-geographical conditions.

Afghanistan basically satisfies its needs in the produce of the mining-extracting industry (excluding the petroleum products). During the 1980/81, the import of the petroleum products has amounted to more than 284 thousand tonnes. The one and only existing export item within the list of the mineral raw materials is the natural gas, namely, 2.4 billion cubic metres. There is also exported the lapis lazuli, in the export of which Afghanistan holds the 1st place within the world (6000 kilograms, 1978, estimate).

Geological service. Training of the cadres. The deep of the earth of the country is nationalized. All geological and mining works are conducted by the Department of the geological-explorative works and by the Department of oil and gas of the Ministry of the mining crafts and industry of Afghanistan. They train the specialists in the field of geology and mining craft within the University and Polytechnic institute within the Kabul city.