A proposal for establishing an NGO in Afghanistan for the exploitation of the country’s substantial gem deposits has been proposed by Gary Bowersox, president of GeoVision in Honolulu, a firm specializing in gems from Afghanistan. Bowersox, who for the past three decades has traveled to Afghanistan every year but one—2002—says of the new NGO: “It should help increase miners’ income, employment, and government revenue in one of the poorest countries in the world by raising current gem production to between $300 million and $400 million per year.
“Its tragic history since the Russian invasion in 1979 has prevented these resources from being exploited, except for some gem deposits, which have been mined on a very small and inefficient scale,” Bowersox says. He notes that gemstone mining has brought dramatic increases in the standard of living in parts of Afghanistan, chiefly in the Panjshir valley (northeast of the capital, Kabul) and in Jegdalek to the southeast.
“Our strategy is to jump-start the development of the entire mineral resources sector by radically improving the exploitation of known gemstone deposits and to increase the number of known deposits through exploration,” Bowersox says. The principal Afghan gems are aquamarine, emerald, kunzite, lapis lazuli, ruby, spinel, and tourmaline.
Bowersox could play a key role in the development of the country’s gem deposits. His book, Gemstones of Afghanistan, preserved the coordinates of all known Afghan mineral deposits. Government records of those deposits were destroyed in the Hisbi-i-Islami shelling of the Ministry of Mines in 1995.
“Afghanistan’s mineral resources are vast and will require an agency or institution to fully evaluate them and make them known to the international community for possible investment,” Bowersox writes. “Our vision is that the planned Massoud Institute would become a center of excellence for the discovery and exploitation of Afghanistan’s mineral resources.”