Thursday, May 12, 2011

JPMorgan's Hunt for Afghan Gold

Desperate to find justification for its adventure into Afghanistan, the U.S. military is even willing to spin JPMorgan's mineral grab in Afghanistan as a good thing.

In this Fortune piece, which sounds like it was written by the Pentagon, JPMorgan operations in Afghanistan are detailed:
As he flies to the mine for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, [Ian] Hannam thinks back over the past 12 months. This little mine, where operations have yet to commence, is puny by J.P. Morgan's (JPM) standards, but he knows it might be the project for which he is remembered. A lot of powerful people, including the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, are counting on him to demonstrate that the country is safe for foreign investors. Hannam has chafed at times under the pressure from the Pentagon, and the cold-eyed realist in him wonders whether unrealistic expectations are being placed on this business venture.

Hannam ducks his head and climbs out of the chopper, necktie flapping in the prop wash. As he trudges up the hill, even the jaded, 55-year-old banker seems swept away by the pageantry of the moment: the village elder in a ceremonial robe, the silhouettes of women watching from the ridges, the saluting Afghan soldier. Hannam is enveloped in a crush of local tribesmen chattering excitedly in Dari. One of them puts a garland around his neck. Another hands him a Ziploc bag containing a chunk of Afghan gold. A mullah utters prayers. Afghanistan's minister of mining gives a long speech.

Hannam and his local partner, Sadat Naderi, walk up the hill to pose for photographs. Naderi points to a narrow band of quartz that runs in an east-west line across the cliff side. It shimmers in the sun. That is the treasure, he says...Investing in conflict zones is often thrilling, but the great commodities rush that J.P. Morgan and the Pentagon are trying to spark in Afghanistan creates a risk/reward equation of a different magnitude. It's extreme at both ends...

But if the risks are absurd, the potential rewards are off the charts. Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of iron, copper, rare earth metals, and, yes, gold are buried beneath Afghanistan's deserts and mountains. This wealth has lain there mainly undisturbed for thousands of years as armies of Persians, Greeks, Mongols, Britons, Russians, and now Americans tramped above. Invaders have dreamed of exploiting it since the time of Alexander the Great, but no one has yet succeeded on a large scale.
And so yes, like Genghis Khan, the United States military attempts to spread the Empire and exploit the land.



  1. "chattering excitedly"

    Oh no! William Zinsser is rolling over in his... bed. The man is still alive, thankfully.

  2. One wonders if the The US Military gets royalties for opening up this source of wealth to friendly corporations, independent of its funding from congress.

  3. corporate welfare-warfare: " raised by J.P. Morgan and backed up by the Pentagon."