The future appears uncertain for Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban as US-led forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of occupation. As other nations continue to evacuate their citizens, the Central Asian country has been struck by political and humanitarian crises.
China Company Reportedly Hopes to Revive Stalled Plans to Mine Vast Afghan Copper Deposit
12:11 GMT 14.09.2021 (Updated: 16:42 GMT 14.09.2021)
Afghanistan’s Mes Aynak copper deposit, one of the largest untapped high-grade projects in the world, is estimated to hold 240 million tonnes of 2.3 percent grade copper ore, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) - yet hurdles stand in the way of mining at the site.
China is exploring ways to begin mining copper at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan's best-known deposit located about 40 kilometers south-east of the capital, Kabul, according to Kandahar-based outlet Taand. The reserves of an estimated 240 million tonnes of 2.3 percent grade copper are believed to be worth at least $50billion.
Jiangxi Copper on September 13 announced that the company, along with the Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC), was monitoring the situation in what is now Taliban*-ruled Afghanistan, hoping to push forward with the joint venture.
"Due to the unstable situation in Afghanistan, the Mes Aynak copper mine invested in by the company has not yet undergone substantial construction," Zheng Gaoqing, the chairman of Jiangxi Copper said in an online briefing.
Jiangxi has a 25 percent stake in Mes Aynak with Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC) and a 30-year contract worth US$3 billion to develop the deposit, touted as one of the world’s largest untapped high-grade projects.
Back in 2007, the Afghan government signed a 30-year agreement to develop the deposit with a consortium of state-owned Chinese mining companies, including MCC and Jiangxi Copper. As part of the deal, MCC pledged to build the mine and the infrastructure around it. However, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan put the plans on hold.
After the US and NATO made their abrupt withdrawal from the country, which resulted in a swift return to power of the Taliban Islamist group, Chinese firms are now hoping to revive the stalled plans. Jiangxi Copper evacuated staff stationed at the project to neighbouring Pakistan in the light of the volatile situation in the south Asian country, Wind Gap reported on 18 August, citing a company spokesman. Mes Aynak is also the site of ancient Buddhist ruins.
This comes as Beijing said it was ready to maintain communications with the Taliban government after an interim cabinet was announced last week, with the country declared an "Islamic Emirate".
© REUTERS / WANA NEWS AGENCYThe flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) is raised at the military airfield in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021.
The flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) is raised at the military airfield in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021.
© REUTERS / WANA NEWS AGENCY
On 8 September 2021, China's state councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that establishing the new interim government was a "necessary step to restore order" in Afghanistan and urged the Afghan Taliban to “unite with all ethnic groups and factions to build a broad and inclusive political structure, pursue moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, draw a clear line with terrorist forces, and establish and develop friendly relations with other countries, especially neighbouring countries.”
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.