Can Afghanistan Satisfy Tech Industries' Insatiable Appetite For Rare Earths?

Afghanistan is rich! The world's "poorest country" is known to have trillions of dollars worth of rare earths and other minerals buried underground. Rare earths are essential for the global supply chain of the technology industry. They are considered a "critical resource" for US national security.  

Afghan Mineral Resources. Source: Aljazeera

A US Defense Department report has described Afghanistan as "Saudi Arabia of Lithium". Pakistan, too, is believed to be rich in rare earths. Peace and security are key to unlocking the potential mineral riches in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is where both nations need to focus for a brighter future for their peoples.

Uses of Rare Earth Elements. Source: Natural Resources of Canada

Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of 15 elements referred to as the lanthanide series in the periodic table of elements. Scandium and yttrium, while not true REEs, are also included in this categorization because they exhibit similar properties to the lanthanides and are found in the same ore bodies. REEs are key components in many electronic devices that we use in our daily lives, as well as in a variety of industrial applications, according to the Natural Resources of Canada website


Rare Elements in the Periodic Table

Rare earth elements go into a variety of industrial applications, including electronics, clean energy, aerospace, automotive and defense. Permanent magnets alone account for 38% of total forecasted demand for rare earths. Rapid growth in Lithium-Ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) represents another major opportunity for Afghanistan. The Chinese appear ready to invest billions of US dollars in Afghanistan to extract this wealth. The extension of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure into Afghanistan can facilitate the export of these minerals through Pakistani ports in Gwadar and Karachi. 

The Afghan mineral wealth was first discovered and mapped by Russian geologists during the Soviet occupation of the country in the 1980s. These maps were used by American geologists from the US Geological Survey in 2010 to conduct aerial surveys using P-3 Orion naval patrol aircrafts equipped with sensors. A US Defense Department report written soon after this discovery called Afghanistan "Saudi Arabia of Lithium".  

With the Taliban request to join China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),  China appears to be the leading candidate to win mining rights for rare earths in Afghanistan. Already, China has acquired rights to develop copper mining at Aynak Copper Field in Afghanistan. Back in 2007, China Metallurgical Group agreed to invest billions of dollars in the project and related infrastructure development -- including the construction of a coal-fired electrical power plant and what would be Afghanistan's first freight railway, according to a Radio Free Europe report.  Geologists estimate that Aynak is the world's largest undeveloped copper field.    

Pakistan's Balochistan province, too, is believed to be rich in rare earth elements. Here is how an expert who asked not to be named explained the mining potential in Balochistan: 

"The Pegmatite rock that covers much of Balochistan (and other parts of Pakistan as well) has several different gems, in it which have been mined for a long time. These are easy to visualize as they differ in color from the rest of the rock, and can be removed with a small geologist's hammer. Pegmatite, though, also contains uranium which can be separated using a Geiger Counter, and rare metals and rare earths. Some of these like Lithium can be separated relatively easily. Others like Samarium and Dysprosium are vastly more difficult to separate because you need X-Ray equipment to help identify them. Also, their presence is very small - that is why they are classed as "rare." The presence of many of these metals was not known to science until recently and until the Japanese began to use them in electronics, hardly any effort was made to mine them. Now, of course, they are all the rage because they have been found especially useful in the latest "green" generation equipment as well as in defense and other applications. Indeed, until China banned their sale to Japan, no one really even bothered about them - it suited the Japanese to remain quiet as they were getting very good prices for these resources from an unaware Chinese, and the same thing is now happening in other parts of the world, in Pakistan in this case. Much of the testing that is involved here is difficult and requires very advanced technical equipment, and even methods like gas spectrometry etc may not help identify materials that exist in extremely small percentages in soil or rock. In India for example, some of these metal reserves were not known until the USGS first and then the Russians helped analyze soil and rocks across the country. If nothing else, the Indians formed a government owned company called Indian Rare earths Limited which comes under the Atomic Energy Commission and is directly under the Prime Minister of India. They do seem to have handled the conservation and exploitation of these reserves far better than is being done in Pakistan." 

Peace and security are key to unlocking the potential mineral riches in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is where both nations need to focus on for a brighter future for their peoples. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Rare Earths in Pakistan?

Finding Pakistan's Mineral Wealth From the Sky

Brief History of Pakistan Economy 

Can Pakistan Avoid Recurring IMF Bailouts?

History of Pakistan Business and Industry

CPEC Financing: Is China Ripping Off Pakistan?

Pakistan's Lagging Industrial Output

Pakistan is 5th Largest Motorcycle Market

"Failed State" Pakistan Saw 22% Growth in Per Capita Income in Last 5 Years

CPEC Transforming Pakistan

Pakistan's $20 Billion Tourism Industry Boom

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Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network


Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Russia bring #Iran, #Pakistan into fold to face #Afghanistan crisis jointly. Top diplomats from China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan met Thursday for their first quadrilateral summit on the sidelines of the SCO summit in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

"Acting in good faith," he (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) added, "we can make a difference in creating necessary external conditions for the Afghans to get their destiny in their own hands, without any threats emanating from the Afghan territory in regards to terrorism, drug trafficking, and without any risks and challenges created from the territory of Afghanistan to its neighbors."

In a readout released following their discussions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that "approaches were compared on issues of facilitating establishment of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan, while the necessity to establish national reconciliation in the country was stressed."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also reported positive results.

"At the meeting, the top diplomats supported the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan," the Iranian side said in its own account of the four-way talks. "An Afghanistan free of terrorism, free of drugs and free of threats against its neighbors was another topic on the agenda."

The meeting is the latest platform among involving regional countries to address the situation in Afghanistan, where the international country at large remains concerned about the Taliban's ability to stabilize the war-torn nation and curb the spread of militant groups known to operate there.

The security climate across Afghanistan and its periphery also dominated a meeting held Thursday by member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet, Russia-led alliance that also includes Armenia and Belarus as well as the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"The situation in the CSTO's zone of responsibility and on the external borders of its member states remains unstable and spells new and truly acute challenges and risks for the security of our countries," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Putin was slated to stage another appearance at Friday's Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) leaders' summit also taking place in Dushanbe. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also count themselves as members of the SCO, as do China, India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Iran, like Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia, is an SCO observer state. But the Islamic Republic is expected to receive full membership as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Tajikistan to appear in person alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Imran Khan and other leaders, while Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were scheduled to speak virtually.

While these differences continue to exist, the situation in Afghanistan has presented a path for Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad to overcome their differences and coalesce. It was also an opportunity to present to the world an alternative order to that advertised by the United States.

The U.S. has accused both China and Russia of pursuing destabilizing moves across the globe, and has instituted tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have also strained due to the former's warming relationship with India and the latter's long-cultivated ties to the Taliban.

The emerging dynamic reverses Cold War-era interactions that saw the U.S. and Pakistan on one side of the decades-long geopolitical dispute, and the Soviet Union and India on the other. India and Russia still maintain warm relations, but the SCO has sought to bring all regional parties together, leaving the U.S. on the sidelines.
Riaz Haq said…
Mapping Afghanistan’s untapped natural resources
Afghanistan is believed to hold more than $1 trillion worth of mineral resources and metals but faces many challenges in untapping it.

Afghanistan has an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals including lithium (used in batteries), uranium (used for nuclear fuel) and many others. One of the largest deposits of rare earth minerals can be found at Khanneshin in Helmand province.

The country also has an estimated 152 million tonnes of barite, a colourless mineral commonly used by the oil and gas industry in drilling.


Deep beneath the ground in one of the world’s poorest countries sits at least $1 trillion of untapped mineral resources, according to a report published by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum [PDF]. The South Asian country of 38 million people is estimated to hold more than 2.2 billion tonnes of iron ore, 1.3 billion tonnes of marble and 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals.

According to Scott Montgomery, a geologist who has studied the extent of Afghanistan’s resources, the country requires a minimum of seven to 10 years to develop large-scale mining to become a major source of revenue.

Poor security, weak legislation and corruption have prevented the development of the mining sector.

What lies beneath the ground?
During the 1960s and 1970s the USSR and its Eastern European allies conducted extensive surveys of the country’s geological resources. However, decades of war meant that most resources remained buried.

In 2010, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) together with Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) conducted the most comprehensive geological survey of the country identifying 24 specific areas of interest (AOI) across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The areas of interest are colour-coded on the map below. They include: valuable metal reserves (green), building material reserves (yellow), industrial mineral reserves (purple) and areas with oil and gas (red).

Valuable metals
Iron is the most abundant of Afghanistan’s valuable metals. The total iron ore reserve is estimated to be 2.2 billion metric tonnes, placing Afghanistan among the top 10 countries in extractable iron.

The Hajigak mine located in the mountainous Bamyan province, 130km (80 miles) west of Kabul, has the largest iron ore deposit in the region with 1.7 billion tonnes of high-grade ore at 63-69 percent iron.

To put that in context, 2.2 billion tonnes of iron ore could be used to construct at least 200,000 replicas of Paris’s Eiffel Tower – the iconic monument which stands at 324m (1,063 feet) and was constructed from 7,300 tonnes of iron in 1889.

The country is also estimated to have 183 million tonnes of aluminum deposits found mainly in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces. The lightweight metal is the second most used metal globally, behind only iron.

Afghanistan also holds an estimated 2,698kg of gold deposits along two main gold belts: Badakhshan southwest to Takhar and Ghazni southwest to Zabul. This amount of gold can mint at least 300,000 gold pound coins each weighing eight grams.

Afghanistan is the eighth most mountainous country in the world making many parts difficult to access. The Hindu Kush Himalayas span the northeast of the landlocked country and contain various minerals and stones including marble, limestone and sandstone which are used widely in construction.

Marble is a versatile rock commonly used in architecture and sculpture. The country yields an impressive 1.3 billion tonnes of the beautiful building stone which is enough marble to build 13,000 Washington Monuments – standing at 169m (555 ft) tall and 17m (55 feet) wide. Nangarhar province which borders Pakistan is known for its pink onyx marble which is among the most sought-after in the region.
Riaz Haq said…
Islamabad in talks with Taliban to expand China-Pakistan infrastructure scheme
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project provides an avenue for energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan, an envoy said
The CPEC is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which Beijing has pledged more than US$60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan

Pakistan has discussed Taliban-led Afghanistan joining the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, the Pakistani ambassador to the country said on Monday.
“Regional connectivity is an important element of our discussion with Afghan leadership and our way forward for our economic interaction with Afghanistan,” said Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul, in an interview with Reuters.
“This important project – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor … provides good opportunities, good potential for providing infrastructure and energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan … (and) also connecting South Asia to the Central Asian region,” he said.
CPEC is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which Beijing has pledged more than US$60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, much of it in the form of loans.
Khan said that discussions had been held with the Taliban-led administration on this and other ways to develop the country’s economy.
“I think there has been deep interest in terms of developing economic connectivity of Afghanistan with Pakistan through CPEC and with other neighbouring countries including Iran, China, Central Asian countries,” he said.

In recent days, representatives from Pakistan, China and Russia have held meetings with Taliban officials. Khan said security and economic development were the two main topics under discussion and that these countries expected to continue to consult as a group and meet the Taliban.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country has been plunged into economic crisis as the nation’s international assistance has been largely cut off.
Billions of dollars in central bank assets held abroad have also been frozen, which has put pressure on the banking system and prevented most transactions involving US dollars, which Khan said was also hampering trade.
Khan said that Islamabad was also trying to work with the international community to ease international restrictions on the banking system and several executives from Pakistani financial institutions with a presence in Afghanistan had visited Kabul in recent days to see if the situation could be improved should international limits end.
The United States and other Western nations are reluctant to provide the Taliban with funds until the Islamist militant movement provides assurances that it will uphold human rights, and in particular the rights of women.

Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan and hosts millions of Afghan refugees from decades of conflict, is concerned about the economic crisis hitting its neighbour.
Its prime minister, Imran Khan, and other officials have urged the international community not to isolate the Taliban administration, saying aid should be provided to prevent economic collapse and a wave of refugees.
Pakistan has had deep ties with the Taliban and has been accused of supporting the group as it battled the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years – charges denied by Islamabad.
However, Pakistan has not yet formally recognised the Taliban-led administration and Khan, the Pakistani ambassador, told Reuters that “the issues of formal recognition will come later as Pakistan is part of the international community”.
On Monday, the UN General Assembly drew to a close without speeches by Afghanistan after world powers intervened in disputes over who would represent the two countries.
Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Russia, #Iran and #Pakistan Move to Create United Front on #Afghanistan .

"We should positively view the timely development of bilateral and multilateral dialogues and cooperation with Afghanistan on fighting terrorism," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in comments carried by official Iranian media outlets and Russia's state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

He called upon those present to act through two platforms, the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a coalition of countries in which all present, save for neutral Turkmenistan, are members.


China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and others in the region surrounding Afghanistan have set out to establish unity in confronting the crises enveloping the nation since the U.S. military withdrawal.

In their second such meeting, the senior diplomats from Afghanistan's six neighboring countries and Russia gathered virtually and in person for a conference in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Wednesday in an effort to further align their views.

They come together at a time when Afghanistan is facing imminent humanitarian, economic and security crises. Representatives were on hand from China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Among the most concerning developments for these countries has been the rise of militant groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) that have issued threats beyond Afghanistan's borders.


"It is necessary to create a unified front against terrorism by means of such multilateral platforms as the U.N. and the SCO," Wang said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed this call in his remarks, and additionally offered the assistance of the Collective Treaty Security Organization, a Moscow-led alliance that also included Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

He said his nation was preparing to send assistance to Afghanistan, and also issued an appeal to prevent the U.S. and its allies from redeploying forces elsewhere in the region after having withdrawn from a two-decade conflict in Afghanistan.

"We once again call on the countries neighboring Afghanistan to prevent the U.S. and NATO from establishing a military presence in their territory, given their plans to move there after pulling out of Afghanistan," Lavrov said.

Afghanistan, neighbors, Russia, meet, Tehran, Iran
Russian ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and China's special envoy for Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong pose for a picture at the second Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan's Neighboring Countries in Tehran, Iran on October 27.
Beijing and Moscow have sought to ensure that regional countries were the ones to take the lead on the developing situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban quickly seized power from a U.S.-backed government after the pullout. No country in the world has yet recognized the newly established Islamic Emirate. But China, Russian, Iran, Pakistan and others have already begun to engage with the nascent administration in hopes of avoiding further instability.

As turmoil arises in the shape of ISIS attacks, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian highlighted his country's experience both in battling jihadis in Iraq and Syria and in suffering from U.S. military action in confronting the new challenge in Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said…
REMs – the most precious commodities
Pakistan should hire experts, finance rare earth metal projects through budget

REMs constitute a group of 17 elements that occur together in the periodic table, including yttrium and 15 lanthanides. The use of REMs within industrial sectors is both high stakes and high wager.

These sectors include defence, electronics, medicinal, industrial, automotive, etc and they are used in specialised applications such as aircraft engines, nuclear batteries, lasers, magnets, optic fibres, high-strength alloys, superconductors, storage disks, signal amplifiers, to name a few.


REMs deposits in Pakistan have been discovered in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (Koga, Tarbela, Jawar), Gilgit-Baltistan (Gilgit, Skardu), and Balochistan (Reko Diq, Chagai, Saindak).

Initial geochemical analysis showed that 12 out of 17 REMs had been found with varying potential. Still, the exact size is yet to be determined and required an in-depth exploration study. REMs are the most precious commodities today and Pakistan needs to place maximum bets on it to cash in on the opportunities. Realistically, Pakistan is not a manufacturing or a processing country, hence, it should earmark the commerce potential with both revenue from sales and barter trade.

Due to REMs strategic importance, an organisational setup should be put in place, under the prime minister, and in close collaboration with supporting arms of armed forces and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

The entire exercise can be done in stages with exploration, extraction, ramp-up production and global marketing with mass production over a five-year timeline.

Experts should be freshly hired or may be brought from different government departments (Geological Survey of Pakistan, Survey of Pakistan, Khan Laboratories, etc), including geologists, radiometric surveyors, drilling/smelting specialists, and security experts.

The project financing should come from the national budget under the ambit of “special strategic projects”. The global REMs market is valued at $10 billion with an 8-10% CAGR and production of 170,000 tons per annum by 2022. If Pakistan secures 2-5% of this market share – with annual output of 3,500-8,500 tons, it can inject $1-2 billion per year into the national pocket over the next five to seven years.

This could change Pakistan’s international status as a high-value player at a high stakes table in the global arena.

The writer is a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He currently serves as Vice President of Core Group in Pakistan
Riaz Haq said…
Lithium, fresh silver lining on economic horizon of Pakistan
By Yasir Masood | Gwadar ProDec 12, 2022

Pakistan possesses substantial lithium reserves. According to the Metal Mining Agency of Japan, these reserves may fulfil global demand for nearly 500 years. With China and India, two of Pakistan's major trading partners, investing extensively in electric vehicles (EVs), Pakistan has a significant chance of becoming a bigsupplier and a major consumer of this essential commodity.

“Given the existence of favorable geological environments in Pakistan which are found elsewhere for the occurrence of Lithium on a global level, Balochistan, KPK, and GB Provinces have been identified as target areas for finding this commodity in substantial quantities”, said Mr. Muhammad Yaqoob Shah, ex-General Manager (Geology) Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation Islamabad.
Riaz Haq said…
China announces land link with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan | South China Morning Post

China announces land link with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan
State media heralded the departure of a cargo from Lanzhou, a key transport hub, but analysts said its main importance is the symbolism
Freight will pass through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, two countries where China is hoping to build a rail link

The 3,125km (1,940 miles) route uses both railways and roads and passes through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as well.
One of the main businesses involved in the route said it hopes to normalise express links between the two countries, although analysts have said the main significance is symbolic rather than practical because air and sea links are still more important.
The route starts with a railway line between Lanzhou, a major road transport hub in the northwestern province of Gansu, to Kashgar in Xinjiang on the border with Kyrgzstan.

The route then continues by road to Kyrgyzstan, travelling to the border with Uzbekistan, where it switches back to rail until it reaches the Afghan border town of Hairatan.

The first train to leave Lanzhou was carrying US$1.5 million of freight, including car parts, furniture, machinery and equipment from Gansu province and other places, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“We hope to normalise the route for Sino-Afghanistan express service and aim to run four times a month,” Li Wei, a marketing manager from New Land-Sea Corridor Operation Co, one of the main firms involved in the shipment, told Xinhua.
But one observer said the route’s main importance is symbolic as China seeks to increase communications with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

“Currently, the economic value of this land route from China to Afghanistan is still not high. Though it has some strategic importance, this kind of transport is not yet on a [large] scale,” Zhu Yongbiao, a professor at Lanzhou University’s school of politics and international relations said.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has resulted in a cut in a number of routes into the country and most freight and traffic goes via Pakistan, according to Zhu.

However, most of these routes suffered from limited capacity, according to Zhu. “The line with the highest volume between the two countries is still the sea route to Pakistan, other routes such as land route and air corridor all have relatively small capacity.”
China has been emphasizing that Afghanistan is an important country in its Belt and Road Initiative – a transcontinental infrastructure initiative – but Beijing has not recognised the Taliban government.

Meanwhile, Beijing is also urging the Taliban to enhance counterterrorism measures after attacks on Chinese targets.

According to the shippers, the newly opened China-Afghanistan land route is an extension of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan freight land road, which started delivering shipments from China to Uzbekistan last December.

The three countries hope to build a rail link but despite signing a memorandum of understanding back in 1997, they have never been able to make much progress.
“All three sides will contribute equal investments toward the Kyrgyz section of the railway,” Niva Yau, a fellow in the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said in a report published in March.
“However, many practical issues are not yet resolved, particularly those of public concern in Kyrgyzstan.”

She said local concerns included “the number of Chinese workers expected to arrive and stay, vocational training for local railway engineers, investment for industrial projects along the railway, and an increasing number of permits for Kyrgyz products to enter China”.
Riaz Haq said…
Rich lode of EV metals could boost Taliban and its new Chinese partners
The Pentagon dubbed Afghanistan ‘the Saudi Arabia of lithium.’ Now, it is American rivals that are angling to exploit those coveted reserves.

In interviews, Taliban officials, Chinese entrepreneurs and their Afghan intermediaries described a frenzy reminiscent of a 19th-century gold rush. Globe-trotting Chinese traders packed into Kabul’s hotels, racing to source lithium in the hinterlands. Chinese executives filed into meetings with Taliban leaders, angling for exploration rights. In January, Taliban officials arrested a Chinese businessman for allegedly smuggling 1,000 tons of lithium ore from Konar province to China via Pakistan.


In late 2021, Yu recalled, he saw an influx of Chinese seeking opportunities in Afghanistan’s postwar vacuum, just as he did 20 years earlier. Within months, according to Yu and other Chinese residents, more than 300 of their compatriots had descended on Kabul. Some carried passports from Pakistan, Sierra Leone or other countries where they had immigrated to mine. Others showed up carrying a few packs of instant noodles in their backpacks, “wanting to get into the battery business,” Yu recalled.


These days, a small, dedicated group of Chinese miners is still in Kabul waiting for the lithium trade to resume.

One of them is Yue, a gruff, chain-smoking native of Manchuria who has mined in Pakistan, Russia and Indonesia. He came to Afghanistan in late 2021 and plans to stay, he explained, because the Taliban is working hard to ensure foreigners’ security and even assigned him his own bodyguards. Afghanistan’s mineral potential is too great to walk away from, he added.

But now, in a great twist of modern Afghan history, it is the Taliban — which overthrew the U.S.-backed government two years ago — that is finally looking to exploit those vast lithium reserves, at a time when the soaring global popularity of electric vehicles is spurring an urgent need for the mineral, a vital ingredient in their batteries. By 2040, demand for lithium could rise 40-fold from 2020 levels, according to the International Energy Agency.

Afghanistan remains under intense international pressure — isolated politically and saddled with U.S. and multilateral sanctions because of human rights concerns, in particular the repression of women, and Taliban links to terrorism. The tremendous promise of lithium, however, could frustrate Western efforts to squeeze the Taliban into changing its extremist ways. And with the United States absent from Afghanistan, it is Chinese companies that are now aggressively positioning themselves to reap a windfall from lithium here — and, in doing so, further tighten China’s grasp on much of the global supply chain for EV minerals.

The surging demand for lithium is part of a worldwide scramble for a variety of metals used in the manufacture of EVs, widely considered crucial to the green-energy transition. But the mining and processing of minerals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese often come with unintended consequences — for instance, harm to workers, surrounding communities and the environment. In Afghanistan, those consequences look to be geopolitical: the potential enrichment of the largely shunned Taliban and another leg up for China in a fierce, strategic competition.
Riaz Haq said…
#Taliban signs $6.5bn #mining contracts with local & foreign companies in #Afghanistan. Deals include extracting/processing #iron, #zinc, #gold & lead in 4 provinces – Logar, Herat, Ghor & Takhar. 7 deals signed with local companies with foreign partners in #Iran, #UK, #Turkey & #China

The Taliban Government in Afghanistan said on Thursday it has signed seven mining contracts amounting to $6.5bn (Af527.37bn) in investment, a record round of such deals since it seized power in 2021.

The signing ceremony took place on Thursday in the presence of the Taliban Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and other officials of the group.

The Office of the Acting Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, said in a statement, “A total of $6.557 billion will be invested in these seven projects. This will create thousands of jobs and significantly improve the economic situation of the country.”

The contracts include extracting and processing iron ore, zinc, gold and lead in four provinces – Logar, Herat, Ghor and Takhar. The seven contracts have been signed with locally based companies with foreign partners in Iran, UK, Turkey and China, Kabul Now reported.

According to the statement, the contracts include four blocks of iron ore in the Ghorian district of Heart province. The first block was awarded to Watan Dorokhshan Company.

The second block was given to Sahil Middle East Mining & Logistics Company, which has a local partnership with Dara-e-Noor and an international partnership with Epcol, a Turkish company.

A local company, Shamsh, with British companies GBM and AD Resources, was given the third block. Bakhtar Steel Company with Ahya Sepahan and Persian Iranian companies was granted the fourth.

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