Authored by Venus Upadhayaya via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A Chinese company has offered the Taliban $10 billion and a proposal to build key strategic infrastructure connecting north-south Afghanistan in exchange for access to the country’s lithium reserves. Some experts raised concerns that the offer would allow the Chinese regime to expand its influence in the region.
The proposal was discussed between a representative of Gochin and the acting minister of the Taliban’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Sheikh Hadith Shahabuddin Delawar, in his office on April 13. The talks happened just a few months after the Taliban arrested two Chinese nationals trying to smuggle 1,000 metric tons of lithium-bearing rocks out of the country.
Experts said it needs to be seen if the deal is feasible, but once signed, it will have diplomatic and political ramifications, and the proposed infrastructure development will likely have a long-term strategic impact.
“Geopolitically, this deal could give China a significant advantage and influence in the region, as it secures a supply of critical resources and strengthens its presence in Afghanistan,” Maher Saadat, an exiled activist and Afghan affairs analyst, told The Epoch Times in an email.
Afghanistan’s lithium reserves potentially rival those of Bolivia, which has the world’s most significant amount of lithium resources. The Taliban’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said in a press release that the deal, once executed, will provide direct employment to 120,000 people and indirectly to 1 million.
Abhishek Darbey, a research associate of the Chinese Research Program at the New Delhi-based Center for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAS), pointed out to The Epoch Times in an email that China is among the first countries that supported the Taliban to form a government in Kabul following the withdrawal of the United States from the country. He believes the Chinese regime wants to control the region.
“In the case of Afghanistan, the country is important for China because the land domain of the Belt and Road Initiative will pass through this region, and a peaceful Afghanistan will create favorable conditions for the BRI to grow and progress,” he said.
“Also, China considers itself to be a major power of the region and, therefore, it wants to be a participant in [the] decision-making of the region or wants to be a power with a capacity to influence the regional politics,” he added.
Afghanistan’s lithium reserves are a quick source of money for the Taliban, but they don’t have a long-term strategic goal for it, according to the experts.
“They may view it as an opportunity to generate immediate revenue to fund their activities and consolidate their power, given their history of relying on various sources of illicit financings, such as drug trafficking and extortion,” Saadat said.
The Taliban’s focus on immediate financial gains—without considering the long-term implications and sustainable development of the lithium deposits—is likely to limit the potential benefits of the reserves for Afghanistan and its people, he said.
“[It] will not contribute to the overall socio-economic development and stability of the country with certainty,” he said.
The first lithium mine was discovered in Ghazni city in 2013. These rare mineral mines are located in five areas in Afghanistan: Herat, Shuryak Valley, Tagab District in Kapisa Province, Nawur District in Ghazni Province, and Badakhshan.
Darbey said the Chinese interest in the region is not new—in 2021, two Chinese companies were sent to Ghazni to conduct technical research and inspect lithium and goldmines.
While China’s lithium reserves are depleting, the Afghan deposits are unexploited. Five Chinese companies have set up their representative offices in Afghanistan, and around 20 Chinese companies have made inquiries about lithium projects, according to Darbey.
Delawar said that the contract of the mines in Afghanistan would be given according to the Taliban’s law.
Darbey pointed out that the Taliban government is already supporting Chinese investment in its wider mining sector, and China’s two largest lithium miners—Tianqi and Ganfeng—have already examined the lithium mines in Afghanistan.
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