Hidden Treasures in a Troubled Nation: Science for Afghanistan's Future
Recent news reports have brought worldwide attention to Afghanistan's mineral wealth and to the difficulties in bringing a range of commodities to market to rebuild that troubled land. But the mineral assessment is only a part of the story. Recent work by the USGS, the U.S. Navy, and others has made Afghanistan's subsurface among the best known places on Earth. Dr. Jack Medlin will tell the fascinating story about USGS science on energy, minerals, water, and natural hazards and what it means for Afghanistan's future.
Hidden Treasures in a Troubled Nation: Science for Afghanistan's Future
Suzette Kimball: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Suzette Kimball, I'm the Deputy Director here at USGS and it's my very real pleasure to welcome you all to another one of our evening lectures that showcase a lot of the work that we do in USGS and the way that that work intersects with lives of people around us.
The Science in Action Series that you're about to listen to is intended to provide you with a better understanding of science-based issues that are both meaningful in our daily lives and affect our futures. Tonight we're going to have a wonderful lecture entitled, The Hidden Treasures in a Troubled Nation: Science for Afghanistan's Future. As you probably all realize, recent news reports have brought worldwide attention to Afghanistan's mineral wealth and to the difficulties in bringing a range of commodities to the market in order to rebuild that troubled land.
We're very lucky tonight to have as a speaker, Dr. Jack Medlin, who is our Regional Specialist for the Asian Pacific Region within the USGS international programs. Jack is responsible for the coordination, facilitation and development of the USGS programs within 47 countries and island nations. For the last nine years he's coordinated USGS science activities in Afghanistan and has made over a dozen trips to that area to engage in science and science facilitation.
He served on numerous committees both within USGS and within the government as a whole on interagency panels and on many international organization panels as well. Before joining the USGS, Jack was a tenured Associate Professor of Geology at West Georgia College. He spent over five years there. He has received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees form the University of Georgia, his PhD, from Pennsylvania State University.
I think one of the remarkable things about Jack is the worldwide renown he's received for the work that he has done. In 2007, he was the recipient of the distinguished Khan medal from the Afghan government. This is the highest award given by the Afghan government to a foreigner. We're very lucky to have Jack present the results of our activities in Afghanistan with us tonight. Please join me in welcoming him.
Jack Medlin: Thank you Suzette for that gracious introduction and thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming out tonight. It's a much larger crowd than I anticipated.
Some of you may or may not have known that USGS was actually involved in Afghanistan. And hopefully, after you leave tonight you will know a little bit more of why we're involved, how we're involved, where we're involved, what we're doing there. For most of us and there are about 70 or 80 USGS committed scientists that have been working in Afghanistan over or since 2004.
There's some of us that are part of the team that have been working in Afghanistan much longer and one of those people is my colleague Said Mirzad who may be is responsible for hooking me into this a number of years ago.
So he's... Said, basically, was the Director for the Afghan Geological Survey for a number of years and then he came on to the US and then started in the early '90s working for USGS. So he's been working much longer in Afghanistan than any of us have. To say work in Afghanistan has been linear, has been easy, has been a piece of cake, would not be a correct statement. It's a challenge, it's a roller coaster ride, along the way you meet very interesting people, some you don't want to meet again.
Jack Medlin: But it's been interesting. It's an interesting country both from a geologic viewpoint and it's a challenging country both from the standpoint of trying to work there. The geology is wonderful, the landscape is daunting, it's difficult, and one of the things that we've had to work in Andar from day one is an unbelievable security umbrella that were placed in Andar when we go there.
There are many people in this audience tonight that have been part of the team. I like to call them the USGS Afghanistan team. None of us basically would have been able to even think about working there without the support of, and the full support basically, of our USGS directors, associate directors, regional execs, chief team scientists, it's a whole long list of people that have supported us from day one and that's been very helpful to us.
What's missing in that equation is that there's probably three, four times that number of Afghans that we've been working with over the last 5-1/2 years. So without their help what you're going to see tonight basically would not have been possible. So we owe them a great deal of credit in helping us help themselves.
And before I get into the slides, I want to bring a little bit of human caring thought into this.
What the USGS people have been trying to do there is not just the science or the geology but the USGS people basically, almost immediately after we went in there, helped organized the day-care center at the Afghan Geological Survey which Pat Leahy, who's here tonight–that was not part of our terms of reference but we have to establish it, we took money out of our own pockets basically to buy supplies for it and to keep it going.
The other thing is Will Stetner who is somewhere in here, if he's gotten back from AT Hill took on the cause of collecting books and periodicals and maps and anything that was in the hallways of this building that was surplus. He became a pack rep and more over basically, he took all that stuff, he boxed it up and he found someone, a victim over at Andrews Air Force base who would fly to Afghanistan free.
So we're also rebuilding the libraries in Kabul University, Kabul Polytechnical Institute as well as the Ministry of Mines in the Afghan Geological Survey.
And the last thing that I want to mention on this particular topic is that one of our dear colleagues in water that we've worked with for three, four years, a guy, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Hatbari died and left us five children and they were all girls. That's not so good basically in Afghanistan.
So the team basically collected about $4,000 and sent it to her to basically help in the situation that resulted from Mr. Hatbari dying. So that's the humanitarian part of things, what I want to do now is to go to the slides and this is, I'm going to go quickly through this but this is the sequence of themes for the slides, our topics that we're going to talk about tonight.
I don't know how many people in here know basically the regional setting of Afghanistan. You can see its land lot and it's surrounded basically by a number of countries which has always been sort of an obstacle to its development and growth.
So as we go forward tonight, kind of keep this picture in mind. This shows the comparison of Afghanistan to a particular region in the United States. Afghanistan is just slightly smaller than the State of Texas. I want to give you a little bit of history timelines for this country and I want to highlight a couple of things that happened, events that happened basically that still play in this country and its development.
One of them basically is the last thing on this list which is the British basically drew something called, it was a British engineer, called the Durand line back in 1893 and there is not basically; they did that independent of the Afghans and there is not a living or dead Afghan that will accept that line.
So that's where a lot of the border problems that are now going on between Afghanistan and Pakistan, they go back to this. The next, from my viewpoint, the next important event basically is that after several hundred years the Afghans were able, basically, to rout the British out of Afghanistan and it gained its independence from Britain after this.
And then it was able, basically, for the next, up until about 1973 to basically run its own country. It was a monarch but it was not a ruthless monarchy.
And then in 1973, basically, that was over thrown by, and the royal family, basically, were, a lot of men and women were killed, not the king and then that was followed basically, in 1979 by the invasion, December '79 by the invasion of the Soviets and the installation of a Soviet government. That started basically, this is where the US started supporting basically the Mujahideen in Pakistan trying to basically, provide a little bit of a challenge for the Soviets who had invaded Afghanistan.
And then the Soviets left in '89 and they left behind a regime, a communist regime, Soviet regime which was basically then overthrown in '92 which then led to the civil war and then a little bit later on, basically, the Taliban coming and then a little bit later on basically, Osama Bin Laden.
The key thing there is the '73 overthrow of the government. I'm not going to go through each one of these. These are in a lot more detail as we get or closed in. As most of you know, basically, the US went into Afghanistan in November of 2001. And then there was an effort by the United Nations and the Coalition of Countries to set up what is the current government now adopting the constitutions and so forth.
And then this, you can read this. One of the importance of this year is that the former king did return but he died in July of 2007 which was significant then in the country. This is one of many more revealing slides for me, there's somewhere around 28 million people, Afghans. If you look at the fertility rate and the mortality rate, those are very, very high, probably very typical for a developing country. The other thing that's very interesting is that the life or expectancy is about 44 years.
And then if you look at the literacy it's very, very low in terms of international standards. It's low because this country has been in conflict for the last 20 or 30 years especially under the Taliban and the Mujahideen. And then you look at something as simple as water, clean drinking water, and then you look at unemployment, and this unemployment here is 40 percent and that's part of the problem that we're trying to deal with right now, is to try to create jobs and economy in this country.
The other thing that's sort of interesting is if you look at the major languages and ethnicities in the country, there are a lot of tribes, different tribes in this country which basically, can lead to conflict and has.
The largest tribal group, basically, are the Pashtun, they're about 40 or 45, somewhere between 45 and 50 percent. The next largest group there are the Tajiks and then you have the Hazara who are descendants supposedly of Genghis Khan, you have the Uzbeks, you have the Turkmen and I won't go through each one of these but each one of these tribes basically have sort of a slightly different culture or subculture, whatever you want to call it, and they claim their lineage from different groups.
And then there is this additional list of eight. Now, I want to get to what I hope you came here for, that gave you some background. One of the first things that geologist looks for when he starts or he or she starts working is, is there a geologic map available of the area. This is a geologic map that was put together from a German source and a Soviet source. As it turns out basically, the northern half of the country basically, the geology was basically done by the Soviets and the southern by the Germans.
And our people basically, took some very hard work. We're able basically, to put the two halves together and to create this map which was published about three years ago. The important thing that I want to point out on this map is that; there are two things actually. When you look at this map you see a lot of straight lines and when you, a little bit later, on you will discover basically, that these are very large faults.
18:22The rocks of Afghanistan have not been treated very well by nature. It's a terribly, structurally, tectonically complicated country and we'll talk a little bit more about the faults a little bit later when we get to earthquakes. The other thing I want to point out is that if we look at resources, the oil and gas resources are up in the northern part of the country, by and large, your coal resources are in this area. I should go on with the oil and gas.19:01
There's some oil and gas, small oil and gas basin here. We think this is a frontier oil and gas basin here called the Helmand EOC, you'll hear more about that. And then the Katawaz which is here. The only producing oil and gas field basically is up here in the northern part of the country. Minerals, we look at minerals both as metallic minerals, industrial minerals, and early on, we took a run at gem stones, precious stones but we sort of backed away from that.
But you will see basically, the minerals when we get to our mineral map and they are pretty much scattered all over the country. I put this slide out because USGS has worked in Afghanistan basically prior to 2004. As a matter of fact, we started working there in '52, working with the Afghans on water.
Water is a critical issue in the country. We have sold a seismic station in 1965 at Kabul University. That station ran until 1985 and then it went off the air. We did some remote sensing training in the early '70s but basically, we left Afghanistan as an organization about 1973 with the overthrow of the monarchy. I want to bore a little bit deeper into the year 2001 or the year 2001 to the present time.
I'm not going to read these specifically but I do want to point out basically that in 2004 we gave USAID a proposal, a five-year proposal that proposed a two-phase program. One, basically, phase one was using existing data in trying to do assessments for a variety of commodities; minerals, coal, oil and gas and so forth. And the second, that was supposed to be about two years long, and the second phase which is on the next slide, basically call for the gathering of new data and information to verify the hole in our existing data and information and then at the end of the three-year period, to try to do a final assessment of the commodities that we were looking at.
Now I want to go back a little bit to 2001. In 2001 I think most of us remember where we were on September the 11th. There were some of us from USGS in Nepal and as we made our way back from Nepal which was not easy, we, at least I did, I started thinking about basically if what Said had told me in the early '90s had come true. He kept talking about the window is open for opportunities, Jack, in Afghanistan. And about that time, the window looked like it was open, it would close again. But September the 11th 2001 basically opened the window up and it's pretty much stayed open since then.
23:05When we got back to the States in early October, Pat Leahy, who's here tonight, called a meeting and he says, "I think USGS should do something to help in the rebuilding and the reconstruction of this country." So he pulled the group together and which led to expanding to a larger team, science team, and we began basically to put together a proposal, a five -year proposal; the two phases that I just mentioned. And for the next year or year and a half, basically, we were briefing anyone that would listen to us downtown trying to get funding for it. And in 2003 the US Trade Development Agency agreed to form the Oil Com to fund the oil and gas resource assessment of the country.24:05And in March of 2004, USAID basically agreed to fund the five-year program. Prior to that, in February of 2004, Said, as a result of a request from the White House, was sent to Kabul to serve as the Senior Advisor to the US Ambassador in Kabul and Said basically spent 2-1/2 years there serving as a senior advisor for natural resources. In late March, early April of 2004, there was what we call assessment trip. They were eight USGS people who went to Kabul and we went there to assess the expertise of the Afghan geologists and engineers to assess the facilities and to assess data that would be available if we did a project there.25:17
What we discovered is that the Afghan Geological Survey building was nothing more than a shell; all the windows were blown out, there are rocket marks and pot marks on the outside of it, there were no doors, there was no plumbing, there was no electricity, there was no furniture, it was a shell. And I think a lot of us said, "Oh, my God, we're starting over." And that literally was true.
The good news on that was that we discovered basically that there was an abundant amount of data and information. Most of which had been taken home by the Afghan engineers and kept during the '90s so that when they destroyed it and they started bringing it back and this is data, some of it goes back 50 or 75 years.
So we knew we had data to work with. Then we looked at the Afghan expertise and what we discovered was some of the most willing people in the world or be it that they basically had missed about 30 years of their professional career, so there was a data gap in terms of geologic knowledge. And then that led us basically to add another component to our work plan which was capacity building which is what we, at the end of the day, were trying to do.
We're trying basically to get them to the point where they, that they can do this themselves and we can go home. The program itself, and I've mentioned some of it, there's oil and gas, there's water, there's something we call Agromat as part of the water program or can be made, minerals, coal, hazards at the capacity building.
27:09And then this basically down here is mostly phase two or the new data gathering. The oil and gas assessment, we basically at the beginning, did an oil and gas assessment in the northern two basins. A little bit later on, we did an assessment of what you call a Tirpul basin over here just north of Herat. I mentioned the Helmand and I mentioned the Katawaz a little bit earlier. There's just not enough data and information for us at the moment to do an assessment of those two basins, maybe later. One of the two problems to Helmand basically is there's nothing down here except a sand cover and we can't get to the rocks to collect samples that are helpful.28:09The Katawaz not even the Afghans will go in there because that's basically where the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, a lot of the stuff is going on now. This is the assessment results for the oil and gas and for the northern basins. And there are two figures here basically. We use probabilities, statistics or they're teamed in this assessment work and what we discovered or what we think is there's about 1.5 billion gallons of petroleum and about 15 trillion cubic-feet of natural gas in the country.29:01
That's more than enough to provide the energy needs of this country. The question we always ask is that why are we spending a hundred million or a hundred dollars for gas, for fuel to be trucked in? And so far, I've not run into anyone that can answer that question. And then the Tirpul basin just north of Herat it's a very small basin but it has potential. It could provide energy basically for the Herat area.
So there's, what I want you to remember is that there is sufficient oil and gas resources in this country to basically meet its energy needs. Water, water in Afghanistan is probably more valuable than maybe fuel, maybe the oil and gas because it's an Arab country, it's a desert country that depends mostly for its water on snow and maybe to some extent, melting glaciers.
Again, we're dealing with, we're trying to get, use existing data and information to build towards trying to create a situation in which the Afghans know how much water they have; the quantity and the quality, so that they can begin to manage it. They don't know that yet.
And we're trying basically to help them do that. When you talk about water there, they're basically, you begin to talk about surface water as well as ground water. This is a map basically that shows at least three of the major rivers. This is the Helmand River which basically heads just up a little bit south of Kabul and then there's the Kabul River.
The Helmand runs only into Iran which causes a problem. The Kabul runs into Pakistan which causes a problem. And then you have the Amu Darya basically up here which separates Afghanistan from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and so forth. So those are the major rivers in the country.
Our people use a very systematic approach in trying to be a water resource databases; first the surface water. The surface water information comes from stream gauges. And I mentioned a little bit early on that the, we have to establish stream gauges in this country from the 1950s to '72s.
When we went in basically, most of the string gauges have been looted, torn up, destroyed, whatever. The international donors are helping to reestablish those string gauges which then will start producing sort of a rich set of data that can be used to begin to get a handle on the quantity and the quality of the surface water resources of the country and begin to try to build some sort of a database which will allow the Afghans to know how much water they have so that they can manage it. We've always said that basically, maybe it's not a question of the amount of water but it's the management of the water which is really critical.
The surface water project that we picked out basically to do our initial work is outlined in blue here, basically. And that's the Helmand River which is in the southern part of the country. It really is the flood point of the Helmand River is really the bread basket of the country where most of the, the vegetables and fruits and nuts and so forth come from.
The area we picked up to train the Afghans on ground water resources was the Kabul basin and it's outlined in green on the map. If I can get this thing to behave. We now have the Afghan hydrologist from the Afghan Geological Survey basically daily and monthly monitoring a set of water wells that you see in the Kabul basin.
There are other monitoring wells scattered around the country and those are shown in the yellow triangles and those basically the data are gathered by an organization called DACAR which is a Danish NGO and we have access or have the access to that data. These are some of the publications that resulted from, so far from the water work. I should add here. I think most of you know, everything we do in Afghanistan it has to become publicly available or we don't bother with it.
And when I say publicly available, it goes up on the Afghan USGS website. We got pushed into a program called Agromat by USAID and this is where there are various weather stations scattered around the country which gather basically weather data; temperature, rainfall, snow, and so forth.
And all of that information eventually is fed into the, into our water or will be fed into our water resource assessment. The other part of this is that these teams and there's a team of about 130 Afghan that do this on a daily basis, they got paid for it, also make observations on the health of the crops and when to help plant the next crop and so forth.
So I'm going to go right on through that. Minerals. Suzette alluded to the mineral wealth of this country and I think that we believe that it is a very mineral-rich country.
So when we first started out, again, what we were trying to do was to gather as much of the existing data as possible. This is a map that we started out with and it's sort of a bone of contention because we hear people say, "Wow," They never knew that there was mineral wealth in Afghanistan. Well, this is a mineral occurrence map. And the mineral occurrence map does not indicate that you necessarily are a country rich in minerals.
But we started out with this mineral occurrence map and by taking, buying data all Soviet data, by compiling with our Afghan colleagues in the Afghan Geological Survey, the geologic, the geophysical, the geochemical data and running it through the USGS Resource Assessment process, the dots all of a sudden when you get through with the assessment process, the dots become what we call boxes, squares, rectangles, and so forth.
37:21And these basically sort of indicate where we think, based on the existing data and information, the high priority mineral targets are in the country. It took us three years basically to go from what you saw previously to this point. I mentioned a little bit earlier, we look at things in terms of metals, industrial minerals and we also try to keep tally on rubies and emeralds. This country has some of the finest rubies and emeralds in the world.38:03
It also has Lapis Lazuli, that beautiful dark mineral that you see in a lot of jewelry. We backed away from the gem stones or the precious stones early on because it's basically controlled by mafia-type outfit. When you look at the slide, basically a lot of the metallic mineral resources are in the southern two-thirds part of the country and a lot of the industrial minerals such as cement, clays and so forth are in the northern part of the country.
I don't expect you to look at this. There's not going to be a test on this but outside there is a fact sheet which basically has a table in it which basically gives our assessment results for the various commodities and we did not attempt to assess all of the commodities.
39:07I think Steve Peters who did the work, I said that it was around 20 or 20-plus but I put this table up here because I think most of you have read about the $1 trillion figure that appeared in the New York Times which has kept Said and Steve and myself busy over the last month and a half trying to distance USGS from the trillion dollar figure. The way the trillion dollar figure was put together is that if you take the, for example, copper or aluminum, and you multiply those tonnages or kilograms or whatever by the commodity price on the particular day and then you add all that up, lo and behold, it comes out to be near a trillion dollars.40:03
Someone say that it's maybe 3 trillion. The answer that Paul Brinkly at DoD gave was, it doesn't matter whether it's a trillion or 500 billion...
Speaker 1: Let's try a different mike for you.
Jack Medlin: OK.
Speaker 2: That's 5-1.
Speaker 1: Can we enter them? OK. OK, you try it out. Is it any better?
Jack Medlin: Yeah.
Speaker1: No, it's not any better.
Jack Medlin: Wow.
Speaker 2: Can you hear me?
Speaker 1: Whoa, that's... OK. Let's try it now.
Jack Medlin: OK. It doesn't matter whether it's 500 billion or trillion or 3 trillion, it's a big figure.
The country has wealth. And this is the cover of a, what we call the phone book, it has all the details for the assessment in it. Coal, we're still working on coal. Again, we're trying to compile the existing data and the information on coal. The final result on coal is not out at this point in time. This shows basically what we think is the distribution of the coal in the country. There's good quality coal, there's not so good. There's bad coal quality coals.
Earthquake hazards. This is one that we had difficulty in selling to our funding agency because no one wants to fund hazards. As it turns out, Afghanistan, and we knew this going in, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of earthquake hazards.
This is, I always try to put this slide in, this is basically northern Pakistan after an earthquake in October of 2005. Eighty thousand people died here. Kabul is a city that's growing. Kabul is a city basically that has 4 million people in it. Kabul is a city that has no building code or standards. And we're investing billions of dollars in development into the country and it could be wiped out tomorrow. Oh, why is it a dangerous country?
It's dangerous basically because the Indian Plate, if you look over here about 60 million years ago, the Indian Plate basically is sort of like an escalator, it was making its way basically toward the Eurasian Plate up here and 10-plus million years ago basically, it collided with the Eurasian Plate.
43:18And that collision basically continues to uplift the Himalayans which is basically the highest mountain range in the world. There are plate boundaries associated with this collision and where you have plate boundaries and you have plate motion, the Indian Plate basically is moving at about 43 millimeters per year northward. There is going to be earthquakes, there's going to be motion, there's going to be risk associated with it. This just shows you basically since the turn of the last century, a plot of earthquakes with magnitude 4 and above in the region.44:09
So there are a lot of earthquakes around. There are a couple of a hundred people each year get killed from earthquakes. In Afghanistan it will be more so if you have movement or what we call the Chaman Fault which is the most dangerous fault in the country. And this map comes about as a result of our assessment of the earthquake hazard.
The Chaman Fault runs about 20 miles west of Kabul It's about 20 miles from the US Embassy in downtown Kabul. If you ask the people at the embassy, is the embassy built to code, no one knows. So we don't do it, the problem is, we know it's the hazard, we know here's a risk, we don't know basically how frequently there's earthquakes on this fault.
45:03We don't know the periodicity. I guess it's what I'm trying to say. But this is also where people are projecting the most growth to occur in this corridor. I've mentioned capacity building, that's really our main aim in the country. We've done training in basically everything that I've mentioned; oil and gas and coal and minerals and earthquake hazards and we will continue to do that in our phase two. We're also trying to build something called a geospatial infrastructure in the country and that's where basically all the map products that we produce; satellite imagery and so forth, will go into a digital data system which should be beneficial to the country.45:59New data and information. Because it's difficult to get around in the country, we basically have employed remote means of doing it and we use what you call a WB-57 to conduct the high perspectral mission in the country. This is a plane that flies at about 50,000 feet. It's very close to the U-2 plane in its design. And then we used a naval research laboratory plane to gather magnetic and gravity information and I'm gonna breeze through these. This is the flag pattern for the gravity magnetics. This is resulting map, gravity map. All we look for on this are highs and lows. The lows basically are the blues, the highs basically or the reddish colors. We use this in oil and gas assessment as well as in mineral assessment.47:02
In the oil and gas assessment it helps us basically determine the basin, oil and gas basin margins. And the magnetics help us basically determine the thickness of the sediments in the oil and gas basins. In addition, basically, it allows us to basically start trying to correlate highs in magnetics with potential mineral deposits like the boxes that you saw. The gravity magnetics give us the third dimension. Just about everything we do is surface but with the gravity magnetics, we can begin to look into the subsurface.
We also have done basically a high perspectral mission with the WB-57 plane. This is a slide which shows the flag lines from there. This is a sort of a preliminary processing of the data.
The importance of the high perspectral data is that you can use it for biology, you can use it for water, you can use it for rocks, you can use it for minerals. It has a wide variety of uses and that's critical basically to try to map the country at a distance. This is an example basically of what we call alteration zones. The minerals that you see there are related to mineral or can be related to mineral deposits of various kinds. They are their proxy minerals, the fingerprint minerals.
This is another example of the one that you saw there is looking from about 50,000 feet up. This is a map basically that you see the bar at the bottom is 2 kilometers. That data basically we can take it down to very detailed scales and begin basically to map the various minerals on the grounds.
So it's very good to help us in our geologic mapping also. This dataset has not been released, it's still being processed. Moving ahead to 2010. In 2009 we were approached by the Department of Defense Taskforce for stability in operations. And they became very much interested in trying to help market the mineral resources in Afghanistan. They're the ones that came up with the trillion dollar figure.
What we are looking at here are the boxes that in one of the previous slides and what we're working with DOD on is basically to try to prioritize the various minerals and the various boxes and to go in and verify.
We need verification that what we think is there from the old Soviet data and other data is actually there. So that means that we're going in with our Afghan colleagues in collecting samples and have them chemically analyzed to help verify the old Soviet data. We're also involved in finding, gather additional data in some of these boxes for a variety of magnetics and a variety of other airborne geophysics techniques. Our people basically so far have been to a place called Khanashin which is in Helmand province is a rare earth deposit.
51:08It's the only one so far we found in the country. Rare earths are important in the whole electronic digital industry. So there's been a visit there, there's been a visit to this one which is we think potentially can be a world class copper deposit and likewise here. I'm looking for the Aynak south of Kabul at sea, world class copper deposit that the Chinese are currently want to be on there's a world class iron ore deposit here in the country. There are more copper, there's tin and you get up in here you get into the clays and gypsum.52:00So there's... what we're trying to do is to go in to selected boxes and gather additional data and information which will verify the Soviet data but which also be used to put into data packages which will be offered at some point basically up for bidding. And this is sort of looking forward. Over the last month or so there've been a lot of talk about rebuilding the Silk Road. This is a map, one of many, among many basically, of what the old Silk Road used to look like. It's not one road but it was, the Silk Road was put together by Genghis Khan and he wanted basically trade to start with China or in Asia and with Europe and as you can see it has many branches.53:00And what's being talked about now is recreating the Silk Road and what they're talking about is basically building both railroads and highways out of South Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and across Afghanistan and connecting it into Central Asia and now into Europe. And this is the infrastructure that is critical that has to be developed if the mineral resource potential of the country is to be realized. There has to be railroads, there have to be more roads that are built. And if you go downtown in the interagency meetings, there's a lot of people basically talking about the design, the routes, and so forth of the proposed infrastructure in Afghanistan.54:04
That will open up the whole country to South Asia, to Central Asia, they're also basically talking about a power grid corridor coming out of Central Asia down into Pakistan going on in to India. They're talking about oil and gas pipelines coming out of Central Asia sweeping across Afghanistan going in Pakistan and India. What it does is it creates a commercial corridor which hopefully would lead to the development of the country.
Nothing we do is done by ourselves and this is a slide which is a list of 40 or more people, coordinating partners, whatever you want to call it, that we've worked with over the last five years.
And in closing basically, if you're interested in reading more, I would suggest these four themes; the first one, maybe most of you have read, it was published in the late '80s early '90s, it's a great book to read, it's great read, very thick. Three Cups of Tea, is mostly about Pakistan but the principles are currently being applied in Afghanistan. Descend into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid is a great read also. And the more recently, this Keys to Success in Afghanistan, the new Silk Road strategy. It's about 45 to 50 pages. That's a great read too.
And I said everything that we do is publicly available. This is basically the URLs of the USGS Afghan website, there are copies of it outside.
Thank you .