The ferrous metals iron and chromium have been used for centuries, principally in the manufacture of steel. As such they have many uses, from heavy industry and manufacturing to kitchen cutlery. The importance of these metals to developing economies has been witnessed by the massive demand from China in recent years, and as such Afghanistan is well positioned to supply the Southeast Asian region.
Ferrous metals in Afghanistan
There are a total of 93 ferrous metal occurrences recorded to date in the Afghan mineral occurrence database. A number of different styles and ages of mineralisation are distributed across the country, including the largest unmined iron oxide deposit in the Middle East region. Most exploration was completed in the 1960s and 70s and as such these deposits should be reviewed in light of new geological models. Sulphide disseminations, including chalcopyrite in some of the iron oxide deposits, may be of particular interest in the search for potential iron oxide-copper-gold-style mineralisation.
The best knowniron oxide deposit in Afghanistan is located in Bamyan province, but mineralisation of this style has been identified discontinuously in an east-west belt over 600 km. The deposit itself stretches over 32 km and contains 16 separate zones, up to 5 km in length, 380 m wide and extending 550 m down dip, seven of which have been studied in detail. The ore occurs in both primary and oxidised states. The primary ore (80% of the deposit) occurs below 100/130 m and comprises magnetite and pyrite, with minor other sulphides including chalcopyrite, and averages 61.3% Fe. The remaining 20% is oxidised and consists of three hematitic ore types at slightly higher grade. The mineralisation is believed to have a structural control and be related to Oligocene magmatism. Russian estimates for the entire deposit are 1 700 Mt, although estimates for the near surface open-pittable oxide ore in the most explored area are 85 Mt (Category A-C2). A Russian feasibility study on the deposit was completed.
Other iron oxide deposits
Four other deposits have been identified to date, although none have been explored to the same extent as at Hajigak. The largest is the Khaish deposit, also in Bamyan province, situated in the aforementioned iron belt. Five smaller ore bodies have been delineated to date and speculative estimates suggest that the deposit may contain up to 110 Mt, but at a lower grade (48.6% Fe). Two deposits have been discovered in Badakhshan province. The Furmurah and Syakh Jar deposits are both tabular skarn-style bodies occurring at the margins of Oligocene granitic plugs, with the Furmuyrah deposit assaying up to 67% Fe. The Zerak deposit in Baghlan province occurs in a fault zone and three hematite magnetite zones have been discovered to date, grading up to 62.5% Fe.
High-grade chromite ore has been discovered in the Eocene Kabul ophiolite, in Logar province. Ten near surface zones are estimated to contain about 180 000 tonnes at 42.2% chromite, 15% of which is metallurgical grade. More exploration is warranted in this area, and other areas in Afghanistan, where ophiolite-related chromite occurrences have been identified.