Afghanistan: ‘Taliban have all the cards’ says expert
Leigh Evans, chairman of Facts4EU, also warned such a move could swell the coffers of the incoming Taliban regime enormously – and potentially fund future terrorist activities. Facts4EU’s report suggests Afghanistan is now believed to be the richest repository of lithium in the world, not to mention gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, chromite, uranium, and aluminium.
It also has massive reserves of precious stones including diamonds and rubies.
And this is to say nothing of its massive resources of precious stones such as diamonds and rubies.
Furthermore, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said beneath the soil of areas of the mountainous country where hundreds of British soldiers were killed lie deposits of precious “rare earth elements” and other vital metals worth billions.
Joe Biden may have handed China access to vast lithium deposits in Afghanistan, warned the report
A lithium car battery
Some of them, such as lithium, are crucial to “green” alternatives to the world’s current transport technologies – and China has already secured mining rights, in at least one case for 30 years.
Facts4EU’s report states: “Put simply, if Boris Johnson is outlawing new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – and that is the declared policy of the UK Government – then the new electric cars will need lithium and other ‘rare earth elements’ for their batteries or we will all be going nowhere.”
Estimates of the total value of the resources vary, In 2010 the US Government put it at more than $1trillion, but other estimates are far higher, ranging up $3trillion.
A Taliban fighter mans a machinegun on top of a vehicle as they patrol along a street in Kabul
USGS research has concluded Afghanistan may hold 60 million metric tons of copper – worth $540billion at today’s prices.
They also estimated 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, and – crucially – 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements (REEs) such as lithium, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, aluminium, gold, silver, zinc, and mercury.
The US Department of Defense is on record as suggesting that just one Afghan province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia, home to the world’s largest known lithium reserves.
A report published by the USGS in 2011 states: “We estimate that at least 1 million metric tons of light rare-earth elements (LREE) exist within the Khanneshin carbonatite, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan is hope to vast reserves of metal and mineral deposits
Lithium batteries are crucial for the Government’s green strategy
“This newest evaluation of resources agrees well with an earlier USGS estimate of undiscovered resources in south Afghanistan (Peters and others, 2007), and it verifies the unpublished work of Soviet scientists in the 1970s (Cheremitsyn and Yeremenko, 1976; Chmyrev, 1976; Yeremenko, 1975).”
“Apart from anything else, mining requires power and water and neither of these are in abundant supply where the precious deposits are located, from what we understand.
“That said, China is known for playing a long game and it would not be buying up these mining rights for no reason.”
USGS map of mineral deposits in Afghanistan
Mining rights payments and subsequent royalties from the Chinese could prove a massive bonus to the new regime
He added: “It must also be remembered that the Taliban has little access to money right now, as a result of assets being frozen by western governments.
“The last thing anyone wants is for the Taliban to have money to fund terrorism, once it has fully seized control domestically.
“It is already well-documented that the heroin poppy trade in Afghanistan is cynically used to fund Taliban activities.
“Mining rights payments and subsequent royalties from the Chinese could prove a massive bonus to the new regime.”
Chinese and Russian leaders discussed Afghanistan on Wednesday, Chinese state media said, but did not echo the G7’s call for the Taliban to allow people to flee the country after August 31, as desperate crowds left behind by the withdrawal of US troops continue to fear for their safety.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in a call on Wednesday, a day after a meeting of G7 leaders, which neither Russia nor China is a member.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday the United States expects to finish evacuations by the end of the month.
The Taliban said all foreign evacuations from the country must be completed by then.