Many in Afghanistan hold that the country’s future lies underground, in vast mineral deposits with the potential to boost the country’s economy for decades. Nowhere is that more true than Mes Aynak. The ancient mine, 30 km south of Kabul in Logar province, is believed to be the world’s second largest untapped copper source. According to Afghanistan’s Mining Ministry, the site is worth tens of billions of dollars at today’s prices. Extracting the metal could deliver thousands of jobs and $1.2 billion in revenue a year to a country in desperate need as international assistance dries up ahead of the planned U.S. and NATO withdrawal in 2014.
Story: Aryn Baker, Time | Photo: Adam Ferguson