Logar Province Afghanistan May 2013: China Metallurgical Group Corporation has built barracks for its workers in the area where it plans to start mining, but has downsized its staff there when the project was delayed after the ruins were discovered.
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The following photographs were made in May 2013. China Metallurgical Group Corporation has built barracks for its workers in the area where it plans to start mining, but downsized the staff there when the project was delayed after ancient Buddhist ruins were discovered in Logar Province, Afghanistan.Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
Logar Province Afghanistan May 2013: China Metallurgical Group Corporation has built barracks for its workers in the area where it plans to start mining, but has downsized its staff there when the project was delayed after the ruins were discovered.
Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan May 2013: Emerald miners on top of the mountain in Panjshir. Each team of miners has dozens of investors who financially support them in turn for an equal share in whatever gems they find.
Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan May 2013:Workers in an emerald mine in Panjshir. The illegal mines are pitch black and workers work by headlamp, flashlight and kerosenelamp.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:Afghan Gold and Minerals is one of the few private mining companies that is exploring for gold in Afghanistan today.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013: Rock samples collected from an exploration site where Afghan Gold and Minerals is searching for gold in Baghlan province. The samples will be ground down and sent back to a laboratory in Kabul for analysis.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:Employees of Afghan Gold and Minerals drill into the rock with jackhammers. The company has made it a point to employ people from the area in its exploration activities.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:Girls cross the bridge in Kalanyozar in Baghlan province. As part of its community outreach program, Afghan Gold and Minerals has donated a school bus to the area that shuttles children from several villages to this school all year round.
Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan May 2013:A group of emerald miners take a tea break in their makeshift tent at the top of the mountain in Panjshir. Rumors of men who have made millions overnight keep the miners going.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:The valley where Afghanistan Gold and Minerals is stunning — and extremely poor. Farmers say they can’t make enough money raising crops alone.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:The valley where Afghanistan Gold and Minerals is stunning — and extremely poor. Farmers say they can’t make enough money raising crops alone.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013: Samat, who is from a nearby village, has been employed by Afghan Gold and Minerals as the head of security at this processing plant.
Logar Province Afghanistan May 2013: The archaeological dig at Mes Aynak has employed villagers from the around the area for whom there is little other work.
Logar Province Afghanistan May 2013: The Buddhist monks who lived here and built this early-century AD city were also mining for copper in the rich deposits the Chinese company hopes to excavate.
Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan May 2013: A worker emerges from an emerald mine. After explosives are set off in the rocks, miners use large plastic tubes to draw out dust and smoke so they can go back in to work.
Baghlan province Afghanistan may 2013:Girls at the school's bus in Kalanyozar in Baghlan province. As part of its community outreach program, Afghan Gold and Minerals has donated a school bus to the area that shuttles children from several villages to this school all year round.
Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan May 2013: A valley where emeralds are mined in Panjshir province, about 150 km north of Kabul in north-central Afghanistan.
The following photographs were made in May 2013. China Metallurgical Group Corporation has built barracks for its workers in the area where it plans to start mining, but downsized
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Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
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Treasure Land: The Mines of Afghanistan by Yuri Kozyrev

Aug 29, 2013

Afghanistan's transition out of war is not shaping up to be very peaceful. Every day seems to bring another militant attack and more civilian lives lost as Afghan forces struggle to take over security ahead of the pullout of most foreign troops next year. Powerful women are being targeted with violence and kidnapping in parts of the country that are slipping back under Taliban control, and the no one is quite sure what will happen come elections next spring, when long-time leader President Hamid Karzai has said he will step down from power.

Whether Afghanistan can find more stable ground depends in no small part on the government's ability to wean itself off outside aid. Many think the country's rich natural resources are destined to be part of that. Oil and gas exploitation are in their nascent stages, and the U.S. government has estimated that the nation's mineral wealth could be worth as much as $1 trillion. Over several decades, geologist have identified rich deposits of copper, gold, iron ore, lithium and rare earths around the country. The challenge is getting people to show up and put some money into digging them up. Though artisanal mining for stones like emeralds and lapis lazuli has been done here for centuries, large investment in the potentially lucrative industrial mining sector has a long way to go. Part of the problem is safety, part of the problem is that not enough exploration has been done to attract even risk-prone investors, and part of the problem is concern over what will happen to the money once it does start to come.

"There is potential in the country, but it's how you manage it," says Atiq Sediqi, an adviser to the Ministry of Mines. "If it goes into pockets, like it has in Congo or Nigeria, then we're doomed."

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Krista Mahr is TIME’s South Asia Bureau Chief and correspondent in New Delhi, India.

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