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.  


Afghan Mineral Resources. Source: Aljazeera

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

7 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.

Riaz Haq said...

Mapping Afghanistan’s untapped natural resources
Afghanistan is believed to hold more than $1 trillion worth of mineral resources and metals but faces many challenges in untapping it.


https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/24/mapping-afghanistans-untapped-natural-resources-interactive

Afghanistan has an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals including lithium (used in batteries), uranium (used for nuclear fuel) and many others. One of the largest deposits of rare earth minerals can be found at Khanneshin in Helmand province.

The country also has an estimated 152 million tonnes of barite, a colourless mineral commonly used by the oil and gas industry in drilling.


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Deep beneath the ground in one of the world’s poorest countries sits at least $1 trillion of untapped mineral resources, according to a report published by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum [PDF]. The South Asian country of 38 million people is estimated to hold more than 2.2 billion tonnes of iron ore, 1.3 billion tonnes of marble and 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals.

According to Scott Montgomery, a geologist who has studied the extent of Afghanistan’s resources, the country requires a minimum of seven to 10 years to develop large-scale mining to become a major source of revenue.


Poor security, weak legislation and corruption have prevented the development of the mining sector.

What lies beneath the ground?
During the 1960s and 1970s the USSR and its Eastern European allies conducted extensive surveys of the country’s geological resources. However, decades of war meant that most resources remained buried.

In 2010, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) together with Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) conducted the most comprehensive geological survey of the country identifying 24 specific areas of interest (AOI) across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The areas of interest are colour-coded on the map below. They include: valuable metal reserves (green), building material reserves (yellow), industrial mineral reserves (purple) and areas with oil and gas (red).


Valuable metals
Iron is the most abundant of Afghanistan’s valuable metals. The total iron ore reserve is estimated to be 2.2 billion metric tonnes, placing Afghanistan among the top 10 countries in extractable iron.

The Hajigak mine located in the mountainous Bamyan province, 130km (80 miles) west of Kabul, has the largest iron ore deposit in the region with 1.7 billion tonnes of high-grade ore at 63-69 percent iron.


To put that in context, 2.2 billion tonnes of iron ore could be used to construct at least 200,000 replicas of Paris’s Eiffel Tower – the iconic monument which stands at 324m (1,063 feet) and was constructed from 7,300 tonnes of iron in 1889.

The country is also estimated to have 183 million tonnes of aluminum deposits found mainly in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces. The lightweight metal is the second most used metal globally, behind only iron.

Afghanistan also holds an estimated 2,698kg of gold deposits along two main gold belts: Badakhshan southwest to Takhar and Ghazni southwest to Zabul. This amount of gold can mint at least 300,000 gold pound coins each weighing eight grams.

Afghanistan is the eighth most mountainous country in the world making many parts difficult to access. The Hindu Kush Himalayas span the northeast of the landlocked country and contain various minerals and stones including marble, limestone and sandstone which are used widely in construction.


Marble is a versatile rock commonly used in architecture and sculpture. The country yields an impressive 1.3 billion tonnes of the beautiful building stone which is enough marble to build 13,000 Washington Monuments – standing at 169m (555 ft) tall and 17m (55 feet) wide. Nangarhar province which borders Pakistan is known for its pink onyx marble which is among the most sought-after in the region.

Riaz Haq said...

Islamabad in talks with Taliban to expand China-Pakistan infrastructure scheme
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project provides an avenue for energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan, an envoy said
The CPEC is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which Beijing has pledged more than US$60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/south-asia/article/3150364/islamabad-talks-taliban-expand-china-pakistan-infrastructure

Pakistan has discussed Taliban-led Afghanistan joining the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, the Pakistani ambassador to the country said on Monday.
“Regional connectivity is an important element of our discussion with Afghan leadership and our way forward for our economic interaction with Afghanistan,” said Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul, in an interview with Reuters.
“This important project – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor … provides good opportunities, good potential for providing infrastructure and energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan … (and) also connecting South Asia to the Central Asian region,” he said.
CPEC is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which Beijing has pledged more than US$60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, much of it in the form of loans.
Khan said that discussions had been held with the Taliban-led administration on this and other ways to develop the country’s economy.
“I think there has been deep interest in terms of developing economic connectivity of Afghanistan with Pakistan through CPEC and with other neighbouring countries including Iran, China, Central Asian countries,” he said.

In recent days, representatives from Pakistan, China and Russia have held meetings with Taliban officials. Khan said security and economic development were the two main topics under discussion and that these countries expected to continue to consult as a group and meet the Taliban.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country has been plunged into economic crisis as the nation’s international assistance has been largely cut off.
Billions of dollars in central bank assets held abroad have also been frozen, which has put pressure on the banking system and prevented most transactions involving US dollars, which Khan said was also hampering trade.
Khan said that Islamabad was also trying to work with the international community to ease international restrictions on the banking system and several executives from Pakistani financial institutions with a presence in Afghanistan had visited Kabul in recent days to see if the situation could be improved should international limits end.
The United States and other Western nations are reluctant to provide the Taliban with funds until the Islamist militant movement provides assurances that it will uphold human rights, and in particular the rights of women.

Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan and hosts millions of Afghan refugees from decades of conflict, is concerned about the economic crisis hitting its neighbour.
Its prime minister, Imran Khan, and other officials have urged the international community not to isolate the Taliban administration, saying aid should be provided to prevent economic collapse and a wave of refugees.
Pakistan has had deep ties with the Taliban and has been accused of supporting the group as it battled the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years – charges denied by Islamabad.
However, Pakistan has not yet formally recognised the Taliban-led administration and Khan, the Pakistani ambassador, told Reuters that “the issues of formal recognition will come later as Pakistan is part of the international community”.
On Monday, the UN General Assembly drew to a close without speeches by Afghanistan after world powers intervened in disputes over who would represent the two countries.