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June 23, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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The competition for Afghanistan's natural resources

Posted by Letters editor

Claim jumping?

David Sirota in his column on Afghanistan identifies a serious concern: What if they started a war to steal the minerals of one of the most impoverished, war-ravaged countries on Earth, and not enough people cared? [“Justifying war as way to protect — or exploit — a nation’s resources,” Opinion, June 21].

The 1982 edition of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Minerals Yearbook says of the Hajigak iron ore deposit in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province: “A 1977 independent survey concluded that the deposit was large enough and of a sufficient grade to support a major iron and steel industry.” The 1982 report also mentions a natural-gas pipeline from northern Afghanistan into the Soviet Union (now Uzbekistan) and the “Ainak” copper mine.

Mineral riches in Afghanistan are not news to the USGS. Stealing other people’s mineral claims used to be called “claim jumping” and was the theme of many Hollywood Westerns. (Note: the claim jumpers were the bad guys.) Back then claim jumping was considered to be theft and murder. I hope we can still recognize it for what it is.

— Bill Distler, Bellingham

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