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UK chemists help Afghanistan assess its mineral wealth

29.05.2007
British chemists are helping to revitalise the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) to help the war-torn country make the most of its mineral wealth.

Afghanistan's natural resources include significant deposits of metals such as gold, silver, copper and zinc; precious and semi-precious stones including lapis, emerald and azure; and coal, natural gas and oil. Accurate geological surveys of the country's mineral resources are crucial to locating deposits and advising potential investors, but the AGS has seen decades of decay and neglect.

Michael Watts, an analytical chemist with the British Geological Survey, is deputy leader of a team that has just left for Afghanistan to install a geochemistry laboratory. ‘We have to take a very pragmatic, low-tech approach,’ Watts told Chemistry World magazine. ‘We are establishing a very basic infrastructure.’ The main piece of equipment for the laboratory will be a spectrophotometer, used to test water for the presence of zinc, nickel and copper.

If the AGS can start to function efficiently once again, the future is potentially bright: donors such as the World Bank are waiting in the wings with substantial investment to help develop Afghanistan’s mineral trade.

Read the whole story here: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/May/24050701.asp

Michael Watts can be contacted while in Afghanistan by email: mwatts@bgs.ac.uk

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Brian Emsley | alfa
Further information:
http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/May/24050701.asp

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