TOKYO // The Afghan president Hamid Karzai said today he welcomes investment from Japan to tap into Afghanistan's plentiful mineral wealth after it emerged this week the war-torn country possesses massive untapped mineral resources. The US department of defense earlier this week put a US$1 trillion (Dh 3 trillion) price tag on the country's reserves of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and other prized minerals, but Afghanistan's minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, said that's a conservative estimate.
Mr Shahrani said yesterday there was at least US$3 trillion worth of untapped minerals in his nation. "The prospects for Afghanistan are massively great and good. It's a country that will not only be rich but will be very rich," Mr Karzai said at a Tokyo hotel today. "It will be the industrial hub of mineral resources." Mr Karzai said he planned to visit Mitsubishi Corp, a Japanese trading company that invests in mining projects around the world, later in the day.
"Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past," Mr Karzai said. Tokyo announced in November a five-year pledge of $5 billion to help Afghanistan strengthen security as well as support agriculture and infrastructure. Japan is Afghanistan's second-largest donor after the US. However, lawlessness and the Taliban-led insurgency continue to obstruct development efforts in the country despite billions allocated in foreign aid and the presence of tens of thousands of international forces. Insecurity will likely complicate efforts to exploit the nation's mineral wealth.
Corruption in Mr Karzai's administration is also a major problem believed to have helped fuel the insurgency. During his visit, Mr Karzai met with Emperor Akihito and was set to go to Hiroshima's peace park and the ancient capital of Nara before leaving Sunday. * AP