Monday, September 13, 2021

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.  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

Home Appliance Ownership in Pakistani Households

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this legit or a tall tale like Pakistan's supposed massive gold copper petroleum etc reserves?I am guessing actual exploration is even less than Pakistan...

Riaz Haq said...

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samir sardana said...

The Indian Clowns and their pipedreams

In 2013,Karzai gave Hajigak iron ore reserve, in the Bamiyan province,to SAIL.

Net Result = Karzai is HISTORY ! A Relic like the Bamiyan - w/o a statue to his name and his name erased,from the airport also !

Doom Follows ....the India lovers !

Let us see the map of the world.WHERE WILL THE IRON ORE GO ? TO MAKE STEEL ! IN INDIA ? OR WILL IT TO IRAN ! FOR WHAT ? TO MAKE STEEL ? IRAN HAS ORES !

SO PLAN TO EXPORT IT FROM CHABAHAR ! CHABAHAR IS HISTORY ! HA HA HA HA HA !

Doom Follows ....where India goes !

Or SAIL WAS TO EXPORT THE ORE,VIA PORT QASIM ? AFTER THE LONG ROAD AND RAIL FREIGHT,AND TT (TALIBAN TOLL)

OR WAS SAIL TO SELL THE ORE,TO PSM - PAKISTAN STEEL MILLS ?

OR WAS SAIL GOING TO SET UP A STEEL PLANT,IN BAMIYAN ? TO USE THE ORE ?????????????? AND EXPORT THE STEEL TO TAJIKS OR PRC OR PAKISTAN !

MADNESS - THY HAS NO QUOTIENT OR NUMERATOR OR DENOMINATOR !

Y DID THE INDIANS USE SAIL TO SET UP THE JV ?

SIMPLE ! TO PAY OFF KARZAI ! SAIL "OUTBID" THE PRIVATE COMPETITION !

Y ?

WHAT HAS SAIL INVESTED TO DATE ?

ZERO !

ORIGIN OF SPECIES !

WHICH IS Y I WONDER,Y AND HOW THE GADWALI WEASEL AJIT DOVAL,SPENT YEARS IN PAKISTAN AS A SPY !

WHAT WAS ISI AND DOVAL SMOKING THEN ?

SIMPLE ! ORGANIC OPIUM MADE BY TALIBAN !

BUT IT DAMAGED DOVAL'S BRAIN ! dindooohindoo

INDIA HAS LOST 25000 CRORES IN AFGHANISTAN,AND WITH IMPUTED COST RS 65000 CRORES.INDIA HAS NO TOILETS,NO SCHOOLS,NO HOSPITALS,NO MEDICAL OXYGEN ............................

Y DID THE INDIAN DUDS LOSE RS 65,000 CRORES IN KABUL ?

AND THAT MY AUDIENCE,IS THE WMD OF THE TALIBAN ! OPIUM AND ITS IMPACT ON DOVAL'S BRAIN !

samir sardana said...

The news title should read "How Can Afghanistan will Satisfy China's Insatiable Appetite For Rare Earths"?

Besides EV and Renewables,the real edge in Rare earths in space,military and stealth technology.That will give the edge of PRC over the US Navy and USAF and the US Missiles and BMD.

That is the CRUS ! EV and Renewables is just a DIVERSION !

China and Taliban are made for each other - just like Adam and Eve ! No nation in the world can invest in Kabul even if the US and UN recognises the Taliban ! Too much political risk so no funding is possible !

US recognises Iran and DPRK - but no US company can trade or deal with these nations.

Same for NATO allies,w.r.t Kabul.Unlike Iran,where the French and Germans,cut deals with Iran - Kabul - will not be possible !

So the only nation which can FUND and DEVELOP,the Rare earths,in Afghanistan,is PRC !

THAT BECOMES THE BASIS FOR THE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP,OF TALIBAN AND PRC.XINJIANG IS A PRETEXT !

ONCE RARE EARTH MINING STARTS - THAT WILL BECOME THE BASIS FOR PLA AND THE PRC ADS AND BMD,IN AFGHANISTAN !

AND THIS SPINS THE CPEC ON ITS HEAD,IN COVID TIMES ! RARE EARTH CARTELISATION BY PRC WILL PUSH PRICES - MAKING DOWNSTREAM USERS UNVIABLE - EXCEPT THE CHINESE OWNED UNITS IN CPEC - WHO WILL MANUFACTURE FOR EXPORTS ! SO THE COMMERCIAL RARE EARTHS USED FOR LITHIUM BATTERIES AND PERMANENT MAGNETS ETC.- WILL MOVE TO CPEC !

FOR THE CHINESE MILITARY AND SPACE PROGRAM - THE RARE EARTHS WILL COME TO PRC,FROM AFGHANISTAN DIRECTLY !

FOR THIS GRATUITY - WHAT SHOULD TALIBAN DEMAND ? A STAKE IN CPEC - WHICH "IT HAS GOT" ! THIS PROVES THE ACUMEN OF THE TALIBAN !

THERE IS ONLY 1 NATION DOOMED BY TALIBAN ! IT IS INDIA ! FROM CHABAHAR TO CPEC NOW BEING VIABLE AND THE DEAD LOSS OF INDIAN INVESTMENTS !

US HAS LOST SOME FACE - BUT WILL SAVE BILLIONS EVERY YEAR !

Pakistan should be involved in the PRC rare earth mining,in Afghanistan - so that they climb the learning curve fast - and then replicate,in Balochistan !

CPEC HAS 1 MORE ADVANTAGE FROM THE POINT OF SUPPLY CHAIN DEXTERITY - w.r.t Rare Earths mining in Balochistan - which will free Afghan capacities,for direct export,to PRC,Russia and nations,which support Taliban !

PRC has to do 1 more thing ! Bring Taliban into SCO,and kick out the Indians ! Indians are an obsolete misfit in SCO - and their presence makes NO SENSE,after their Quad forays !

QUAD = ANTI - PRC !

Like I always said - History,Providence and Prophecy are fulfilling the Ghazwa E Hind alliance of PRC,Taliban,Pakistan,Iran and Turkey ! dindooohindoo

The PRC and Taliban AXIS,will also,assuage the Pakistani fears of a nation - Pashtoonistan and also,of the Iranians - w.r.t Border disputes and Jundallah presence in Afghanistan and Balochistan !

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.
https://www.newsweek.com/china-russia-bring-iran-pakistan-fold-face-afghanistan-1629992

"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.


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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.