China forays into Afghanistan eyeing its lithium reserves

While the whole world is focussing on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, China is eyeing the minerals of the war-torn country which has reserves of untapped lithium minerals. Last year, in November, five Chinese businesses were granted special visas and arrived in Afghanistan to inspect the possible lithium projects, according to Hong Kong Post citing Ariana News. Lithium is one of the several minerals that were unexplored in Afghanistan, owing primarily to years of political instability and a lack of infrastructure. A Chinese business company obtained the rights to the world's largest copper deposits in Afghanistan's Aynak region more than a decade ago but has not yet started the operation in the region, Hong Kong Post reported. Esmatullah Burhan, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leadership, reviewed the Mes Aynak copper project deal and said that the mining in Mes Aynak in Logar province will start shortly.

The publication believes that Beijing can give the political recognition and the economic investment to Afghanistan that they were desperately looking for. On the other hand, China is looking for access to the USD 1 trillion in underdeveloped mineral reserves. The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan supports China's interest as they wanted the outside force to help the country as the country's economy is in freefall since the Taliban took control of the power in August 2021, as reported by Hong Kong Post. While, the Chinese two largest lithium producers, Tianqi Lithium Corporation and Ganfeng Lithium Company said that they had no information on the alleged trips. China's other company, Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited had won a bid worth over USD 3 billion to extract copper at the Mes Aynak mines near Kabul in the mid-2000s, but little progress has been achieved.