The news that Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, might turn out to have $1 trillion-with-a-t worth of mineral deposits might offer some promise of relief from the grinding poverty the country endures -- or not. Unfortunately, the record of countries with big resource pools is not exactly encouraging. For the most part governments tend to nationalize such resources, which means that the government and those with political clout reap whatever benefits are to be had, while the rest of the people get the shaft -- and the situation is aggravated by just how rich some favored people become.
As Amity Shlaes suggests in this piece, there's a better way -- establishing and honoring property rights. But the odds on it happening that way are not exactly encouraging. Perhaps, given that Afghanistan has never had an effective central government, tribal and regional leaders might be able to stave off a complete power-grab at the center. But if power corrupts, the prospect of power and wealth can corrupt pretty effectively also.