Earth’s core has a core of its own

Earth's core has a core of its own

Eruptions like this one at Mount Etna provide some of the only solid evidence of what lies deep beneath us. (AP Photo/Salvatore Allegra)

In research that didn’t involve incredible advances in drilling technology, researchers have found some surprising secrets at our planet’s core. What was once thought to be a single core of solid iron actually contains an inner core of its own with properties very different from what geologists who measured earthquake waves now refer to as the “outer inner core,” CNET reports.

The iron crystals in the “inner inner core” are aligned on an east-to-west axis, while the outer ones are aligned north to south, according to the researchers, whose study was published in the journal Nature this week.

The newly discovered core is about half the diameter of the original core area, which is around the same size as the moon. Researchers say that analysis of the core, which began to solidify around a billion years ago, could hold the key to how our planet evolved.

The team discovered the inner core by analyzing the seismic waves that echo after earthquakes. “The earthquake is like a hammer striking a bell; much like a listener hears the clear tone that resonates after the bell strike, seismic sensors collect a coherent signal in the earthquake’s coda,” a University of Illinois report on the findings explains.

It’s not clear why the inner core is so different from the outer one, but a University of Cambridge expert tells the BBC that it seems “something very substantial happened to flip the orientation of the core” around half a billion years ago.

(An earlier study found that the core is as hot as the surface of the sun.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Earth’s Core Has Its Own Core

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Researchers may have spotted deepest life on earth

Researchers may have spotted deepest life on earth

File photo of Lopez Island, Wash. (AP Photo/Carey J. Williams)

Life has a way of persisting in the unlikeliest of places—not just in the ocean’s deepest spot, the Mariana Trench, but possibly even miles below the Earth’s surface.

Following up on a Yale grad student’s initial fieldwork dating back to 1997, researchers from the university are exploring a beach outcrop on Lopez Island in northwestern Washington state for signs of life that might have thrived 12 miles below ground.

“Most studies report microbial life in the crust to no deeper than a … mile or so,” Philippa Stoddard, who’s leading the project, tells Astrobiology Magazine.

“Assuming our data are correct, this greatly expands our understanding of the extent of the Earth’s biosphere.” Stoddard’s team is focusing on veins of the mineral aragonite, which got pushed up to the surface from the deep millions of years ago, reports LiveScience.

The telltale clue? The aragonite has a “carbon signature” that suggests it was created by microrganisms. The researchers caution that they still need to study the environment more closely before drawing conclusions, but if life at this depth can in fact thrive, they say it should affect how we search other planets, including Mars, moving forward.

(Large bodies of ancient water deep below Earth’s surface may also hold life.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Deepest Life on Earth Possibly Spotted

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Just like a dream: Surreal places you won’t believe actually exist

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Our imaginations take us to grand and colorful places that we can not conceive as a reality. But what if those colors actually existed right here on Earth?

There are places right here on our planet that are absolutely extraordinary. They defy norms and go far beyond the beauty that a typical landscape can achieve. We see gorgeous landscapes and picturesque views in even the most mundane of places. But to visualize the settings of some of our most vibrant dreams as a reality is seemingly impossible.

Jaw-dropping, other-worldly places actually exist in our world. Formed by natural occurrences, these 12 surreal places explore the artistic and dreamlike qualities that mother nature offers as reality.

  • 1. Zhangye Danxia Geopark, China

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    The smooth, sharp, and colorful rock formations that span several hundred meters through this area of China is a sight straight from a dream. These 24 million year old deposits of sandstone and other minerals are similar to a layer cake. Over time the elements sculpted the rock into various shapes, colors and patterns.

  • 2. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

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    As the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world, the Southern Patagonian Ice field has become an important source. In the ice field lies the Perito Moreno Glacier known for its blunt drop and interesting shape.

  • 3. Lake Abraham, Canada

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    Wintertime at Lake Abraham is a surreal sight. Frozen bubbles fill the water creating a beautiful icy landscape. But, don’t get too close. The frozen bubbles are actually made of frozen pockets of methane, a highly flammable gas.

  • 4. Skaftafell Ice Cave, Iceland

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    This cave set in glacier ice has incredible formations due to wind-blown sediments. The lack of air bubbles means it can absorb almost all visible light, creating blue ice.

  • 5. The Great Blue Hole, Belize

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    Near the center of Lighthouse Reef an eerie, large submarine sinkhole takes up over 300 meters of the ocean. Over time the ocean rose, and a cave was flooded creating this World Heritage Site which is also one of the best scuba diving sites in the world.

  • 6. Door to Hell, Turkmenistan

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    In 1971, in search of an oil field, a drilling operation accidentally created a huge crater releasing poisonous gas. The engineers decided to burn off the gas, but it never stopped, and the fire has been lit ever since creating this creepy, Buffy-esque Mouth of Hell.

    These destinations are so surreal, you may think you’re dreaming when you see them.

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Stunning video captures hikers walking on crystal clear ice

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 (YouTube/Tomas N)

Walking on a frozen lake may be dangerous, but when it looks like crystal clear water, who can resist?

Tomad Nunuk. a YouTube user who goes by Tomas N., uploaded a video on Dec. 8 that shows two adventurous mountain trekkers crossing over a completely solid lake in the High Tatras Mountains in Slovakia. The scenery is breathtaking and the frozen water underfoot is so pure that it appears as though the duo is gliding on air.

The video looks almost too surreal , and some commenters are crying that it’s a fake. But according to Igor Ludma, a “Slovakian tourist,” the video could definitely be real.

“It is only possible when the temperatures fall from being relatively mild to very cold very quickly, and at the same time it’s important that there has not been any snow which tends to make the ice very cloudy,” Ludma explained to the New York Daily News, in a scientific breakdown. “And we have had those conditions lately which would explain this very clear ice.”

Ludma told the Daily News he believes the ice shown was at least 2 centimeters thick and could easily hold the weight of a man.

Though the video’s poster has not identified the exact location where the footage was shot, Slovakians are identifying the view as Velke Hincovo Pleso, the deepest lake in Slovakia which reaches 176 feet at its deepest point.

Check out the video below and let us know if you think it’s real or creative Internet hoax.

The deepest holes in the world

  • © digitalunderwater.com / Alamy

Whether they’re man-made mines or natural sinkholes, these massive holes around the world are anything but the pits.

  • 1. Dean’s Blue Hole: Long Island, Bahamas

    © digitalunderwater.com / Alamy

    At more than 650 feet deep, Dean’s Blue Hole is the world’s deepest sinkhole with an entrance below water. Located in a bay near Clarence Town on the Bahamas’ Long Island, its visible diameter is roughly 82–115 feet. The hole is visible above water due to the deep blue color of its water in contrast with the rest of the bay.

  • 2. Bingham Canyon open pit copper mine (Kennecott copper mine): Salt Lake City, Utah

    © imageBROKER / Alamy

    The Bingham Canyon Mine is a gaping 2.5 mile-wide pit located in the Oquirrh Mountains outside Salt Lake City. It has been the site of a massive copper extraction since 1906, an operation that has expanded some 1,900 acres. The mine was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It remains the world’s largest copper mine and, weather permitting, is open to tourists between April and October. You can take a virtual tour on the official visitor center website.

  • 3. Chand Baori: Abhaneri, India

    © Dinodia Photos / Alamy

    In the Indian state of Rajasthan, you’ll find one of the largest stepwells in the country. Chand Baori was built between 800–900 A.D. to preserve water from the monsoon season in the otherwise arid region. Three sides of the terraced well contain 3,500 steps that steeply extend to a depth of 100 feet; the fourth side houses a temple. Chand Baori is dedicated to Harshat Mata, the Hindu goddess of joy and happiness.

  • 4. Kimberley Mine (The Big Hole): Kimberley, South Africa

    © Eric Nathan / Alamy

    At a depth of more than 700 feet and a width of 1,519 feet, it’s hard to believe The Big Hole started as a hill. More than 6,000 pounds of diamonds were unearthed from this site, and at one point, up to 50,000 miners had their picks in the earth. This once-massive diamond mine remains the largest hand-dug excavation in the world to date.

  • 5. Door to Hell: Derweze, Turkmenistan

    © imageBROKER / Alamy

    This ominous hole in Earth’s surface has been burning since 1971. Dubbed the Door to Hell, it sits above natural gas deposits in the Karakum Desert near Derweze, Turkmenistan. The hole is 230 feet wide and 66 feet deep and has been boiling continuously since Soviet geologists first ignited it while drilling for gas.

Scientists look to mine metals from plants

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A hyperaccumulator plant in northern Boreno suit able for phytomining. (Antony van der Ent)

Inside a lab at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, soil samples sit under a row of a glowing light bulbs hanging from a track only a short distance above them. In another room, a centrifuge hums as beakers of Nyquil-colored liquids sit on a nearby shelf. Standard white lab coats hang on hooks outside.

This generic-looking lab feels worlds away from the gritty, dusty mines of Australia—but this is where scientists hope to chart a new path for the industry here, and across the world.

If work being done at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation catches on, it could mean new futures for global communities affected by resource-hungry strip-mining, and new ways for the mining industry to do business.

Australian scientists hope to accomplish this with phytomining—harvesting valuable metals from plants. Essentially, it’s growing plants containing nickel, zinc and cobalt—the bread and butter of the world’s mines, and harvesting the metals above ground, not below.

“We have identified a whole lot of new species which could be used for phytomining which weren’t previously known to science,” said Dr. Peter Erskine, one of the researchers working to make the process suitable for conventional mining companies.

So far, Erskine and his colleague Dr. Antony van der Ent, have discovered about 25 species of plants called ‘hyperaccumulators’ that take up high concentrations of metals from soil, that could form phytomining farms.

Erskine and van der Ent’s latest experiments with phytomining in remote northern Borneo show just how useful the emerging mining practice can be. It’s there that some of these hyperaccumulators thrive in soils rich in nickel. Just one mature tree of the right species can contain up to 11 pounds of nickel.

“I think nickel is the most promising type of metal for phytomining because it’s worth quite a bit of money—almost $20,000 per ton—and, there are very strong hyperaccumulators known for nickel,” van der Ent said.

So planting these hyperaccumulators in land that has already been strip-mined in places like the tropics, where the leftover soil is still rich in nickel but not worth exploiting through conventional mining, could allow for a new future for these otherwise barren areas.

“Stripping mining is pretty devastating for landscapes,” van der Ent said. “You essentially end up with land that’s not useful for many things. The soil is very nutrient-poor, so it’s very difficult to do any normal agriculture on it.”

But it is suitable for phytomining.

“These plants very happily grow in these types of soil,” van der Ent said.

That means locals who’ve reclaimed the barren land can harvest valuable metals, and also prevent erosion in these critically important rainforest areas.

It also gives mining companies another alternative for their post-mine land use, according to Erskine.

Harvesting the metal in the plants is simple, according to researchers. Just trim the leaves and shoots from the tops of the crops—like at a tea plantation—burn them to access the metal in the ashes, and allow the plants to regrow.

Researchers also believe phytomining has potential in places like South Africa, the U.S., Turkey, Greece, and Australia.

Money metals

Beyond nickel, researchers say valuable metals like zinc and cobalt are also suitable for phytomining.

Zinc is widely used in manufacturing and construction, nickel is used in stainless steel and coins, and cobalt is highly valued for its use in batteries.

Other potential applications of phytomining, and what’s called biorecovery, are for rare earth metals used in electronics, and platinum metals in cars and the chemical industry.

Gold is one other option that could be mined from plants. But researchers say chemicals like cyanide are needed to dissolve the metal to make it acceptable to plants.

“I think it would be quite a niche market,” van der Ent said. “You’d need to contain it in a [sealed or fully contained] environment. You can’t just add cyanide to the soil, it’s very toxic.”

Industry skepticism

While the idea of phytomining has been around for decades, it hasn’t been used commercially. Despite efforts by the mining industry to improve its sustainability and minimize environmental impacts, it has shown little interest in investing in phytomining.

University of Sydney professor Dr. Andrew Harris, who has also studied phytomining, isn’t sure there’s much value to the emerging mining technique. He says it’s often easier for companies to clean up mine sites by transporting the used soil to a sealed landfill.

Phytomining “is a niche solution to a small part of the mining value chain,” Harris said. “And I think the sum total of all of that means it just hasn’t progressed very much in the last few years.”

Even as research into its possibilities increases, there have still been no large-scale trials of phytomining anywhere in the world.

“I think if there is a successful large-scale demonstration, then it would be much more acceptable to conventional miners,” van der Ent said. “I guess there is a bit of skepticism at the moment to alternative ways of mining metals and minerals.”

Until those trials are successful, it could be difficult to convince an industry hesitant to adopt change.

“The mining industry isn’t famous for being quick off the mark, in terms of taking on new ideas,” according to Melbourne-based mining consultant Gerald Whittle. “Like any new technology, it doesn’t matter how wonderful it is, it is going to take a while.”

But Erskine and van der Ent are optimistic. They say phytomining is a low-cost, sustainable way to grow new life in areas around the world left for dead.

Surprising facts about the world

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It’s a big, weird world out there. In his Maphead columns, Ken Jennings catalogs the world’s oddities—here are some of the most surprising things he’s found.

  • 1. There’s a country where you can get a beer with the Royal Family

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    One benefit of living in a nation as small as Liechtenstein is getting invited over to the royal family’s place once a year for a beer (along with 33,000 other Liechtensteiners).

  • 2. An eternal flame is burning In Turkmenistan

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    More than forty years ago, Soviet scientists were drilling for gas in Turkmenistan when instead of gas, they hit methane. It didn’t help that the drilling mechanism then collapsed into the hole, creating a toxic situation. The scientists’ solution? Set fire to the hole. The fire continues to burn to this day—a hell on earth, if you will.

  • 3. This remote salt flat is also the flattest place on earth

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    If you visit the flattest place on earth, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, during the rainy season, you get the added benefit of experiencing a mirror effect—a boon for professional photographers and selfie takers alike.

  • 4. This American town is secretly Canadian

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    Since the tiny town of Hyder, Alaska, is a long ways from its nearest American neighbor, and only ten minutes away from a small town in British Columbia, Canada, it makes sense that the town observes Canadian holidays, prices items in Canadian currency, and even sets its clocks to the British Columbia time zone.

  • 5. There’s a heart-shaped island near Croatia

    YouTube/xD

    Galesnjak, a heart-shaped island off the coast of Croatia, has little to recommend it other than its shape, but that hasn’t stopped doe-eyed couples from visiting. However, a destination wedding will have to wait until the privately-owned island offers more than shrubbery.

  • 6. A U.S. national monument is in the wrong place

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    Every year the Four Corners (the point where the borders of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet) draws about a quarter million visitors to a small plaque marking the spot. The irony is that due to rudimentary 19th-century surveying technology, the actual Four Corners is almost 2,000 feet west of it.

  • 7. There’s an African city that’s built entirely on stilts

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    Avoiding traffic jams is easier in places like Ganvie, Africa, since boats are required to navigate a town built entirely on stilts. It’s actually not the only one in Africa, but it is the largest.

China claims it has the world’s largest supercave — but there’s competition

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The Miao Room in China’s Gehibe Cave complex. Analyzed with a new laser tracking system, the expanse of this single chamber was recently measured at 380 million cubic feet, making it the world’s largest underground space. To put this in perspective, the single room is nine times the size of the old Houston Astrodome. You could fit four copies of the Great Pyramid of Giza inside it, and still have space for the Washington Monument.

  • 1. The Miao room

    Reuters

    Photos of the Miao Room show impossibly tiny looking people standing amidst 15-story tall stalagmites, walking among rocks which first appear to be pebbles, but are actually the size of houses. The vista looks like an “Empire of Rock,” or perhaps a stone Manhattan transferred indoors, complete with a major river system and skyscraper views. Using lasers, explorers mapped out a 3-D model of the cave in 2013, and after extensive data processing, announced their findings at the Hidden Earth conference in Great Britain, sort of a Super Bowl of the caving community.

    Before fans of Miao can have their victory parade, there still remains some controversy over what really is the “world’s largest cave.” Here are the competitors.

  • 2. The largest cave system

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    The Sarawak Chamber beneath the jungles of Borneo in Malaysia’s Gua Nasib Bagus (Good Luck Cave) previously held the official laser-measured title as the world’s largest single chamber. With measurements topping out at 377 feet high and 2,000 feet long, the room’s overall volume is only 10 percent smaller than that of Miao. But Sarawak’s surface area of 1.66 million square feet is larger than that of its Chinese competitor, with Malaysian partisans declaring that to make it the most super of the supercaves as it is the largest by that measure. Connected to 120 miles of chambers as part of the Clearwater Cave System, Sarawak is indeed super.

  • 3. The longest cave

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    But wait, say fans of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, shouldn’t the world’s longest cave be considered the world’s true supercave? Mammoth’s 400 miles of passages are nearly double the length of its nearest competitor in the world’s longest cave ranking list, and explorers continue to find new passages, saying “there’s no end in sight.”

    Unlike Miao and Sarawak, Mammoth is also super-accessible, with over 500,000 visitors touring the cave within the U.S. National Park each year. But don’t worry about crowds, there’s plenty of silent, dark space available — if all those people showed up on the same day, and you lined them up side-to-side, they still wouldn’t reach half-way through the passages.

  • 4. The deepest caves

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    Since a cave is underground, perhaps the most proper measure of the greatest supercave should be the one that goes the deepest. For that, you must travel to the Republic of Georgia, where the Krubera Cave plunges at least 7,208 feet below the surface — that’s nearly one and a half miles. But as described in National Geographic’s Call of the Abyss, the path is far from straight down. Teams of explorers toting over a five tons of supplies attacked the challenge of setting a new underground record as if they were “climbing an inverted Mount Everest.” They spent weeks underground rappelling down freezing waterfalls and 500-foot cliffs, then using scuba gear to swim through underground lakes to explore water-filled passages leading to even lower chambers. Blocked by rocks, they used explosives to widen narrow passages before declaring a “temporary” halt at 7,200 feet.

    Meanwhile, near Oaxaca Mexico, another team is exploring a series of passages in the Cheve cave network which have “only” reached 4,869 feet below ground, but radioactive dye they dropped into a cave stream reappeared over 8,000 feet below the mountaintop entrance to the cave, implying an even greater, super-deep discovery awaits.

NASA images reveal shocking scale of Aral Sea disaster

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    Terra satellite image, Aug. 25, 2000. (NASA)

A series of NASA satellite images has revealed the shocking decline of water levels in the Aral Sea, a massive environmental disaster dubbed “the quiet Chernobyl.”

NASA’s Terra satellite began capturing the images in 2000, when the vast central Asian lake known as the Aral Sea was already a fraction of its 1960 size (as shown by the black line in the images).

“It shows the power of long-term satellite observation from space,” a NASA spokesman told FoxNews.com, noting that the Terra satellite will have been in space for 15 years in December.

The victim of a Soviet era water diversion project in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world, but now holds less than 10% of its original water volume.

By 2000 the body of water had already separated into Northern and Southern Aral Seas, also known the Small and Large Seas. As the satellite image taken in 2000 shows, the Southern Sea was split into tenuously-connected eastern and western ‘lobes,’ or basins.

Within 12 months, however, the southern part of the connection had been lost, and the shallower eastern basin began to quickly retreat over the subsequent years. Dry conditions in 2014 caused the basin to completely dry up for the first time in modern times, according to NASA.

“As the lake dried up, fisheries and the communities that depended on them collapsed,” said NASA, in a statement accompanying the satellite images, adding that the increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides.

NASA also noted that the blowing dust from the exposed lakebed, contaminated with agricultural chemicals, became a public health hazard. “The loss of the moderating influence of such a large body of water made winters colder and summers hotter and drier,” it added.

A dam built by Kazakhstan’s in 2005 was a last-ditch attempt to save parts of the lake, but was effectively “a death sentence” for the Southern Aral Sea, according to NASA.

Launched on December 18, 1999, the Terra satellite studies the earth’s atmosphere, lands, oceans and energy.

$1 trillion trove of rare minerals revealed under Afghanistan

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Rare Earths, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium and gadolinium.U.S. Department of Agriculture / Peggy Greb

Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world, valued at nearly $1 trillion, according to U.S. scientists.

Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004. As it turns out, the Afghanistan Geological Survey staff had kept Soviet geological maps and reports up to 50 years old or more that hinted at a geological gold mine.

In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. The magnetic surveys probed for iron-bearing minerals up to 6 miles  below the surface, while the gravity surveys tried to identify sediment-filled basins potentially rich in oil and gas. The hyperspectral survey looked at the spectrum of light reflected off rocks to identify the light signatures unique to each mineral. More than 70 percent of the country was mapped in just two months. [Facts About Rare Earth Minerals (Infographic)]

The surveys verified all the major Soviet finds. Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan’s Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements.

“Afghanistan is a country that is very, very rich in mineral resources,” Jack Medlin, a geologist and program manager of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Afghanistan project, told Live Science. “We’ve identified the potential for at least 24 world-class mineral deposits.” The scientists’ work was detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Science.

Afghanistan treasure maps

In 2010, the USGS data attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), which is entrusted with rebuilding Afghanistan. The task force valued Afghanistan’s mineral resources at $908 billion, while the Afghan government’s estimate is $3 trillion. [Gold Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Gold Mining?]

Over the past four years, USGS and TFBSO have embarked on dozens of excursions in the war zone to collect and analyze mineral samples to confirm the aerial findings.

“Performing an assessment of mineral resources in Afghanistan is not like going out in the United States and doing normal field work,” Medlin said. “What becomes very, very obvious in Afghanistan is the huge amount of pre-planning that has to take place in order to visit any site in that country, such as who is going to provide security and how much security is needed. You also have to plan how you are actually going to get to some place, as for most of the sites in Afghanistan, you cannot drive there our work involved helicopters, and for our safety, we couldn’t be on the ground very long to get samples.”

The researchers’ work has helped develop what are essentially treasure maps that let mining companies know what minerals are there, how much is there, and where they are, all to attract bids on the rights to the deposits. The Afghan government has already signed a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the China Metallurgical Group, a state-owned mining enterprise based in Beijing, to exploit the Mes Aynak copper deposit, and awarded mining rights for the country’s biggest iron deposit to a group of Indian state-run and private companies. [Is China Mining a Rare Earth Monopoly? Op-Ed]

“These resources provide the potential for Afghanistan to develop its economy, to create jobs and build infrastructure, as it goes into the future,” Medlin said.

The mineral riches could lift Afghanistan out of poverty and fight crime and terrorism, said Said Mirzad, co-coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Afghanistan program.

“Terrorists in Afghanistan exploited the misery of the local population,” Mirzad said. “If you give the population jobs, if they could bring bread to the table, if they had something to defend, then the terrorists, who are very few in number, won’t have sway.”

Challenges to mining

However, developing a mining industry in Afghanistan faces major challenges. “One of the biggest challenges is security,” Medlin said. “Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. We’re talking about access to energy, which is required to develop mines. We’re talking access to roads, railroads and so forth. We’re also talking about access to water, which is needed in most mining operations. It’s all a big challenge, but it’s doable. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s doable.”

The USGS is currently helping to rebuild the scientific expertise of the Afghanistan Geological Survey, teaching the researchers modern techniques such as remote sensing. “We want to bring the Afghanistan Geological Survey into the 21st century,” Medlin said. “The aim is to help the Afghans develop their mineral resources in a sustainable way.”

Mining and other forms of natural resources development can lead to graft, corruption, social unrest and environmental degradation. Other nations rich in resources such as Botswana, Chile and Norway could provide Afghanistan good models to emulate in order to avoid these problems, said Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of the journal Science and director of the USGS in the summer of 2012.

For example, important factors contributing to peace and prosperity in those nations are strong public institutions, equitable redistribution of revenues, environmental planning and investment in education, scientific institutions and human resources, McNutt noted.

“The leaders of Afghanistan will have many important decisions to make in the coming years and decades,” McNutt wrote in an editorial in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Science. “Science has opened the door to a new, more prosperous future. May they use this opportunity wisely.”