Following the news Monday that geologists have found a mother lode of minerals in Afghanistan - reports argued deposits of iron, copper, gold and other goodies could collectively be worth close to $1 trillion - it's worth asking a few extra questions.
In particular, there's been an unusually strong focus on the lithium portion of the find. A key ingredient in high-tech batteries for laptops, smart phones, electric cars and the like, its been heralded as the future cornerstone of the world's energy infrastructure.
But is lithium really going to save Afghanistan, as many media outlets seem to think? Nope, not even close.
In the words of Brian Jaskula, a lithium commodity expert with the United States Geological Survey, "We'll be extracting lithium from the ocean before we'll be extracting it from Afghanistan."
(Jaskula was not involved with the Afghanistan work.)
Extracting lithium from the ocean is a real thing, but it's expensive. Instead, most lithium we use starts off dissolved in super-salty water underneath several feet of hard salt pan in Chile's Salar de Atacama, one of the largest lithium producing regions on the planet. Argentina and Australia are also big producers of lithium.