Afghanistan is well endowed with a wide range of industrial and construction materials. Along with metallic and energy minerals, this sector of the Afghan economy is largely undeveloped and has enormous potential. Although most industrial minerals generally command lower unit prices than metallic ores, they are vital in underpinning the manufacturing and construction sectors of the world economy and are generally less prone to price fluctuation. Many are traded internationally. The geographical location of Afghanistan is well suited for exporting these minerals to rapidly growing markets in China, the Indian sub-continent and the Persian Gulf.
The complex geology of Afghanistan gives rise to a wide range of geological environments which, in turn, host a diverse group of industrial mineral deposits. The following highlights a small group of relatively high-value industrial minerals which occur in significant quantities in Afghanistan and have considerable export potential.
Fluorspar is used in the manufacture of hydrofluoric acid, which in turn is used to manufacture a wide range of fluorocarbon chemicals used in products such as plastics and air conditioning units. An estimated 8.8 million tonnes of fluorspar (46.7% CaF2) occurs in a carbonate-hosted hydrothermal deposit at Bakhud in Oruzghan Province, central Afghanistan.
The principal use of barytes is in the manufacture of oil well drilling fluid where it acts as a weighting agent. It is also used as a source of barium in chemicals and ceramics. A volcanic-hosted hydrothermal deposit of barytes occurs at Sangilyan in Herat Province in western Afghanistan. This deposit has been worked previously on a small scale and contains some 1.5 million tonnes (80-98% BaSO4). This deposit is well positioned to supply proposed hydrocarbon developments in Afghanistan and elsewhere in central Asia.
Afghanistan has considerable potential as a source of high quality dimension stone, particularly marble. A range of polished products are manufactured in Kabul from green, white and black varieties of marble quarried in Wardak, Kabul and Nangahar province. There are major potential markets for these products in the Persian Gulf. Other Afghan industrial minerals with export potential include talc from Ghunday in Nangarhar province, which is currently being worked on a small scale. Deposits of talc can also be found at Achin in Nangarhar province, as can magnesite.
A deposit near Kunduz in Kunduz province is also of interest.
Post-conflict reconstruction and development in Afghanistan has led to very strong indigenous demand for construction minerals such as aggregates (river sand and gravel and crushed hard rock), bricks (fired clay and concrete blocks) and cement. Most of the demand for bulk minerals is met from local sources, although there is a clear need to improve the quality and consistency of these vital raw materials.