But most mineral riches are scattered throughout the country, including in the war-wracked southern and eastern areas.

China's National Petroleum Corporation became the first foreign company to start oil production extraction in Afghanistan, and is scheduled to build the country's first refinery within the next three years.

The Chinese firm's contract covers gas blocks in Sari Pul and Faryab, an area known as the Amu Darya River Basin that was first explored by Soviet engineers in the 1960s.

China has also made a hefty investment in Afghan minerals, signing a $3 billion contract to mine copper.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform