Revival redevelopment by gsr11269



Kabul, with a view to develop. It is hoped that
development of the country’s mineral resources
will generate revenue to help revive the
economy and further rehabilitate the country.
All pictures courtesy Clive Mitchell, BGS.

Revival & redevelopment
Major redevelopment projects in Afghanistan are placing large demands on the
minerals industry, which is struggling to keep pace. Clive Mitchell and Antony
Benham report on the revival of the country’s industrial minerals industry
AFGHANISTAN IS A land of mountains                mineral resources that remain largely        Survey (BGS) to undertake institutional
and desert plains situated at the                 undeveloped, including precious, base        strengthening of the AGS.
western end of the Himalaya range. It             and rare metals, precious and semi-            The BGS began work on the three-
is landlocked, is bordered by Iran to             precious stones, coal, oil and gas and       year project in Kabul in October 2004.
the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and            industrial minerals.                         This project focussed on training,
Tajikistan to the north and northeast,              The country is well located for            cataloguing and creating databases of
Pakistan to the east and south, and by            exporting these minerals to the rapidly      legacy geological and mineralogical
China in the extreme northeast by the             growing markets in China, the Indian         information, promotion of the non-energy
Wakhan Corridor.                                  sub-continent and the Persian Gulf. It is    minerals sector, and creation of a Mines
   It is an ethnically and linguistically         hoped that development of the country’s      Cadastre unit (see IM March’05, p.57).
mixed country with a population of about          mineral resources will generate revenue
28.5m., mainly Pashtuns and Tajiks.               to help revive the economy and further       Construction aggregate
   Since the fall of the Taleban in 2001          rehabilitate the country.                    Post-conflict reconstruction and
there has been significant progress in the           Like all government institutions, the      development in Afghanistan has created
economy helped by the injection of over           Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS)          a strong demand for construction
$8,000m. of international assistance.             was severely weakened by decades             minerals throughout the country,
Afghanistan has seen improvements                 of conflict during which there was no         especially in the urban centres of Kabul,
in the agricultural and service sectors           investment, skills development or active     Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad.
as well as the re-establishment of                work programmes. Rehabilitation of the          The booming construction market is
market institutions. Despite a lack of            AGS and Ministry of Mines (MoM) is           dominated by military and donor-funded
infrastructure, few skilled workers and           seen as a high priority in the strategy to   projects such the USAID-funded road
poor security, the government is keen to          promote and support the minerals sector.     from Kabul to Kandahar. This forms
revive other parts of the economy such as           With this in mind, the UK’s Department     part of a 3,000km long ring road that
the natural resources sector.                     for International Development (DfID)         is intended to link Kabul with Kandahar,
   Afghanistan possesses a wealth of              commissioned the British Geological          Herat and the Pakistani border.

54                                                                                                                              June 2008

   There are also numerous commercial             Afghanistan: Provinces
and residential construction projects such
as new hotels, shopping malls, smaller
retail outlets and private housing.                                                                                                                       Badakhshan

   The construction minerals used in                                                                        Balkh

Afghanistan are natural sand and gravel,

crushed rock aggregate, dimension stone,                                           Faryab
cement raw materials and clay for brick




manufacture. Most of these bulk minerals                                                                      Bamyan             Parwan

come from local sources.                                  Herat                                                               Wardak

   There is a clear need to improve the


quality and consistency of these raw                                                             Oruzghan                                      Paktia           Kabul
materials. In the past, construction                         Farah

minerals were mainly produced from
government-controlled quarries, but                                                                         Zabol

currently these are inactive or are being
exploited by private companies or small-                                                    Kandahar

scale miners.                                                          Helmand                                                                                  Uzbekistan
   Regulation of these operations is                                                                                                        Turkmenistan
almost non-existent with the exception                                                                                            Iran

of royalties collected from some marble
and aggregate quarries, and many new
quarrying operations are operated on an                                                                                                          Afghanistan
informal basis.                                  of production expertise and plant
   Natural sand and gravel is extracted          maintenance results in poor quality
from alluvial deposits, often from active        aggregate with an excessive proportion of
rivers, with little or no processing. The lack   flaky and low-strength particles.
of regulation and control of these activities
creates particular problems in the Greater       Bricks                                                                the potential to supply Middle Eastern and
Kabul area.                                      Sun-dried mud bricks are made and sold                                Asian markets with an almost unlimited
   Small-scale quarrying operations              locally throughout Afghanistan. Fired                                 supply of marble. However, the Afghan
typically involve manual digging of pits         bricks are also made with significantly                                marble industry has suffered from a
with shovels and loading straight onto           increased production as demand has                                    chronic lack of investment and poor
trucks (usual capacity 7 tonnes) such as is      escalated. Bricks are also imported from                              access to international markets over the
done along the Chelsetoon River in Kabul.        Pakistan.                                                             past few decades.
Larger scale operations, such as those              Typically, the clay is quarried in the                               These problems are being addressed
on the Paghman River west of Kabul, use          vicinity of traditional wood-fired kilns,                              through the efforts of marble promotional
front-end loaders and processing plants          known as ‘Bhatas’, which are squat                                    events such as “The Big 5” exhibition and
equipped with screens and crushers for           chimney-shaped kilns. Poor-quality lime is                            the Afghan Marble Showcase, both held
oversize material.                               also produced in the lower part of the kiln                           in Dubai in 2007.
   Crushed rock aggregate is produced            during firing. As well as these traditional                              Although the size of the Afghan marble
from hard-rock quarries throughout the           kilns, Hoffman and chamber kilns are also                             industry is not well known, the Association
country. In the Greater Kabul area, there        used in some areas.                                                   of Marble and Granite Producers of
are many quarries extracting Proterozoic            The clay deposits used for brick                                   Afghanistan (AMGPA) indicates that there
marble, gneiss, schist and amphibolite.          production, located mainly in the central                             are at least 130 factories producing
   In the past, there were quarries working      and western areas of Afghanistan, are                                 marble across the country.
the large limestone and dolomite                 Recent, Quaternary and Jurassic in age.                                 A significant amount of marble is
resources in Badakhshan Province,                In Greater Kabul, there are an ever                                   exported as rough-hewn blocks and is
for example the Sabz quarry worked a             increasing number of brick kilns fuelling                             often re-imported as higher value polished
Lower Carboniferous limestone resource           the demand for construction materials;                                marble products, mostly from Pakistan.
estimated at some 1,300m. tonnes.                many of these operations are located in                               The Afghan marble industry lacks proper
   There are also limestone resources in         the city’s suburbs. Brick production is also                          equipment, has little technical knowledge
Baghlan, Bamyan and Herat provinces.             carried out in Herat, Samangan and Khost                              and uses poor extraction methods, which
Marble is also worked for crushed rock           provinces.                                                            together often degrade the value of the
aggregate in Badakhshan, Herat, Kabul,                                                                                 marble.
Kandahar, Wardak and Nangarhar                   Marble                                                                  Extraction is typically carried out by
provinces.                                       Afghanistan has large resources of                                    blasting using ‘black powder’, often
   Often in these operations, a lack             dimension stone and consequently has                                  obtained from military munitions,

    June 2008                                                                                                                                                                           55

which causes micro fracturing and                   Badakhshan province: The Silurian-
results in high levels of wastage during         Devonian Bini-Kama marble consists of
quarrying and processing. The result is          medium and coarsely crystalline marble;
a relatively poor quality polished marble        the resource is estimated to be 1,300m.
with a comparatively high unit cost of           tonnes.
production.                                         Herat province: the Proterozoic
   Marble is known to occur throughout           Chesht-i-Sharif marble occurs 120km
Afghanistan and the following provinces          east of Herat city and consists of a finely
are active producers: Badakhshan,                crystalline marble white to a light green in
Balkh, Bamyan, Helmand, Herat,                   colour.
Kabul, Kandahar, Logar, Faryab,                     Nangarhar province: The Proterozoic
Wardak, Nangarhar, Paktia, Parwan and            Khogiani marble occurs 35km south-
Samangan.                                        west of Jalalabad and consists of a white
   The best quality marbles are of               marble known as “Afghan White”.
Proterozoic age with some of the best-              Some of the best quality marble from
known deposits including:                        Afghanistan is “onyx marble”. Onyx
   Kabul province: Proterozoic marble            is a banded variety of chalcedony, a
is quarried at Ghazak, Hazare Baghal,            cryptocrystalline form of quartz. The             A worker at Paimonar Marble. The Afghan
                                                                                                   marble industry lacks proper equipment, has
Kariz-Amir, Pul-e-Charkhi, Qalamkar, and         Afghan onyx may in fact be a variety of           little technical knowledge. and uses poor
Tara Kheel. The Kariz-Amir marble occurs         aragonite (calcium carbonate) called              extraction methods.
40km north of Kabul and consists of              travertine.
granular white, rarely grey-yellow marble.          However, the traditional name of onyx          per capita and in the UK it is 200kg per
The Ghazak marble (“Ghazak Black”) is            remains in use to this day. Afghan onyx is        capita.
a popular fine-grained, black marble that         valued for its colour banding ranging from           Unfortunately, the Afghan cement sector
occurs 32 km east of Kabul.                      white to yellow, green or brown. Afghan           is in a state of disrepair. The current
   Logar province: Proterozoic marble            onyx is quarried in several provinces             operational cement plants were built in
is quarried in Awbazak, Dehnow and               including Bamyan, Helmand and Faryab.             the 1950s by a Czech company and no
Mohammad Agha. Awbazak marble is                    The Chesht and Khogiani marbles are            investment has occurred since the 1970s.
bioclastic and brown in colour; Dehnow           currently worked for dimension stone                 Cement consumption in Afghanistan
marble is brecciated and brown in colour;        and have been favourably compared                 was 2.5m. tonnes in 2005. It is forecast
and Mohammad Agha marble is black                to Carrara marble, an Italian marble              to increase by 5.8 % annually until 2020,
and white in colour.                             recognised to be one of the best quality          when it is expected to be 7.2m. tonnes
   Wardak province: The Proterozoic              marbles in the world.                             (Box, 2006).
Maydan marble occurs near Maydan                                                                      Annual production from the Afghan
Shar and consists of grey and dark grey          Cement                                            cement plants has declined sharply since
marble ‘beds’ up to 450 metres thick,            The reconstruction of Afghanistan is              a peak of 100,000 tpa in 1990 to a low
interbedded with schist. The “Maydan             currently hampered by a lack of high-             of 16,000 tpa in 2005 (Box, 2006). This
Marble Mines” are well known, with five           quality cement. Afghanistan has the lowest        was produced by the only operating plant,
working areas in a 10-12km outcrop that          cement production in the world at 2kg per         Ghuri Cement Factory, at Pul-i-Khumri in
has been worked for the past 40 years.           capita; in neighbouring Pakistan it is 92kg       Baghlan province.

The best quality Afghan marbles are of Proterozoic age, the Tara Kheel deposit, Kabul province, is one of the best known sources.

    June 2008                                                                                                                               57

  This plant uses the Upper Cretaceous-          as clay and gypsum, both occur in          Pakistan, 400,000 tonnes from Iran, and
Palaeocene Pul-i-Khumri limestone,               the vicinity of these cement plants. In    the remaining 300,000 tonnes mainly
which is a light-coloured, thickly bedded        Baghlan province, the Neogene Surkhab      from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
deposit occupying an area of several             clay deposit has previously been worked      The Afghan Investment Co. (www.
thousand km2 and up to 500 metres                as a cement raw material.         is currently in the
thick.                                             Other limestone deposits considered      process of refurbishing the cement plant
  Jebel Seraj Cement Enterprise in               suitable for cement production include     at Ghuri and the clinker milling plant
Parwan province, produces cement made            the Silurian Jamarchi-Bolo limestone in    at Jebel Seraj (there are no plans to
using clinker purchased from Ghuri               Badakhshan province and the Triassic       produce clinker from this plant). Ghuri
cement plant. This plant formerly made           Benosh-Darrah, Darra-i-Chartagh and        I has been renovated, Ghuri II will be
use of the Proterozoic Jebel Seraj marble        Rod-i-Sanjur limestone deposits in Herat   completed by mid-2008 and a new
which is grey, coarsely crystalline and          province.                                  plant, Ghuri III, will be ready by the end
occurs in beds up to 450 metres thick.             Most cement is imported: in 2005,        of 2009
  Other cement raw materials, such               1.8m. tonnes was brought in from             There are no plans to renovate the
                                                                                            partially constructed cement plant
                                                                                            in Herat, owing to its outdated plant
                                                                                            technology and low cost imports
                                                                                            from Iran. Given these plans, cement
                                                                                            production is forecast to reach 1.6m. tpa
                                                                                            in the next two years.

                                                                                            There are many gypsum deposits in
                                                                                            Afghanistan, but only a small number
                                                                                            are currently worked (Abdullah, 1980).
                                                                                            In Baghlan province, the Dodkash
                                                                                            deposit occurs as massive gypsum
                                                                                            beds 1.5 to 2 metres thick within an
                                                                                            Upper Jurassic sequence of mudstone,
                                                                                            siltstone, sandstone and dolomite. The
                                                                                            gypsum is very pure and contains 99.4%
                                                                                            CaSO4.2H2O. The gypsum is worked and
                                                                                            transported 18km to the Ghuri I cement
The Jebel Seraj Cement Enterprise in Parwan province, produces cement made using clinker
                                                                                            plant in Pul-i-Khumri.
purchased from Ghuri cement plant.                                                             Gypsum is also worked for the
                                                                                            manufacture of plaster in Kabul and
                                                                                            Nangarhar provinces. In the last three
                                                                                            years, 35-40 small companies have
                                                                                            started up production of gypsum plaster
                                                                                            in the Dasht-e-Barchi area of Kabul.
                                                                                               The Mullah Samed Co. is typical of
                                                                                            these operations. Gypsum is transported
                                                                                            by road from Baghlan and Bamyan
                                                                                            provinces. This 100km journey takes four
                                                                                            hours over poorly maintained roads. The
                                                                                            gypsum is calcined using simple wood-
                                                                                            fuelled kilns, hammer milled and bagged
                                                                                            (25-30kg). The gyspum plaster is sold
                                                                                            to shop keepers for up to 150 Afghanis
                                                                                            ($3) per bag; Mullah Samed Co. sells
                                                                                            between 2,000 to 3,000 bags per month.
                                                                                               The current consumption of gypsum
                                                                                            in cement and plaster manufacture is
                                                                                            estimated to be about 25,000 tpa. With
                                                                                            the developments in the cement industry,
                                                                                            it is likely that the demand will increase
Most potteryware is produced by small scale artisanal, family-run businesses, such as the
                                                                                            to approximately 100,000 tpa in the next
potteries in Istalif, 50km north of Kabul.                                                  two years.

58                                                                                                                           June 2008

The clay deposits used for brick production, located mainly in the central and western areas of Afghanistan, are Recent, Quaternary and Jurassic
in age. In Greater Kabul, there are an ever increasing number of brick kilns fuelling the demand for construction materials.

Ceramics industry                                of 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes barytes.             civil war, the country is now starting to
There are no industrial scale ceramic            This material was used in the northern            develop these resources.
plants in Afghanistan and most                   regions of Afghanistan in oil and gas               Major redevelopment projects in
potteryware is produced by small scale           well-drilling during Soviet-era exploration       Afghanistan are placing large demands
artisanal, family-run businesses, such           work.                                             on the minerals industry, which is
as the potteries in Istalif, 50km north of         A celestite deposit in Kunduz province          struggling to keep pace. This has led
Kabul.                                           comprises fine and medium-grained                  to an increase in temporary, informal
  Clay is brought down from the                  crystalline white and bluish-white celestite      mineral operations.
surrounding mountains on horseback in            with a grade of 77 % in an estimated                Afghanistan now needs investment
50kg loads. The pots are thrown using            resource of 1m. tonnes.                           and legislation to ensure appropriate
manually operated pottery wheels, dried            The Bakhud fluorspar deposit in                  sustainable development of its mineral
in the sun and fired in a wood-fuelled            Oruzghan province, central Afghanistan,           resources and to avoid leaving a legacy
kiln. The pots are typically glazed in           contains an estimated 8.8m. tonnes                of environmental damage.
primary colours. The fledgling Afghan             of fluorspar (grade 46.7 % CaF2). The
tourism industry recommends visiting the         fluorspar mainly occurs as massive,                Acknowledgements
potteries of Istalif as one of the unique        thin veins or stockworks in a calcareous          The authors acknowledge the
attractions of Afghanistan.                      matrix. There are numerous other small            contribution of the staff of the
                                                 deposits of fluorspar in Oruzghan                  Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS)
Other industrial minerals                        province.                                         during their work in Afghanistan
Other higher value industrial minerals             The Ghunday talc deposit in                     namely AGS President Abdul Wassey
that occur in significant quantities in           Nangarhar province is high-grade with             and the AGS industrial minerals team
Afghanistan and have some export                 the talc occurring in lenses, pods and            (Khalilulah, Abdul Hossain, Abdul
potential are described below.                   veins. It is currently worked by artisanal        Azim, Mohammed Taher, Shazia, Alia,
  The Sangilyan barytes deposit occurs           and small-scale miners. In Achin, Konar           Mohammed Aajan, Anisa and Shalia).
65km north-west of Herat in western              District, an estimated resource of 1.3m.          They also acknowledge the contribution
Afghanistan. It is mostly massive and            tonnes talc is present closely associated         of BGS colleagues, Dr Michael Watts
coarsely crystalline with a grade of 80-99       with 31m. tonnes magnesite.                       and Gus Gunn. This paper is published
% barytes. It also occurs as lower-grade           Other industrial mineral occurrences in         by permission of the Director, British
banded, vein and disseminated barytes.           Afghanistan include apatite, asbestos,            Geological Survey (NERC).
The deposit contains some 1.5m.                  graphite, mica, phosphorite, high-
tonnes of barytes and has been worked            purity quartz, salt, silica sand,                 Contributors: Clive Mitchell, Project
previously on a small-scale.                     sulphur and speciality clays.                     Leader, Afghan Minerals Project, and
  Barytes also occurs in a lead-zinc               On account of its extensive and varied          Antony Benham, Deputy Project Leader,
carbonate deposit at Farenjal, Parwan            mineral resources, Afghanistan has                Afghan Minerals Project. Further
province in central Afghanistan. It occurs       the potential to become a significant              information on the mineral resources of
as lenses and pods with an average               producer and exporter of minerals in              Afghanistan is available at: www.bgs.
grade of 84 % and an estimated resource          the region. After years of turmoil and  

    June 2008                                                                                                                                59

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