The humanitarian crisis hit Afghanistan after the Taliban took over most of the country. The world witnessed how Afghanistan people were and still are desperate to leave the country as soon as possible and everyone knows the reason. The rule of the Taliban even in the past was not something that made the country progress. When the Taliban first ruled over Afghanistan, people were living in crisis as there were no facilities available to even live a normal life. The environment in the country has never been what anyone can term as “happy” since the country has always been living between wars.
Even when the Taliban was ruling Afghanistan in the past, no peace was left for the citizens as a rule of oppression with ideologies, both patriarchal and misogynistic were followed. War itself can never bring peace. All it does is destruction and Afghanistan struggling for sustaining is an example of this. Even after such sufferings, the land of Afghanistan is still left with vast untapped mineral wealth and resources that can help the country improve its economic state provided they are developed and brought for use.
World’s Largest Deposit Of Lithium In Afghanistan
Afghanistan is counted as one of the poorest nations in the world. The reasons being that Afghanistan never really got any chance to grow as a nation in past years. Things in Afghanistan did change and were getting better after US military forces took over Afghanistan. In 2010 US military officials and geologists stated that the country, which lies at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, has mineral deposits worth nearly $1 trillion. Many supplies of minerals like iron, copper, and gold are scattered across the land of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the richest regions in terms of precious traditional metals and metals that are needed to grow their economy as well.
The province of Afghanistan also has some very rare earth minerals. Most importantly it is stated that it has the world’s biggest deposits of lithium.
Where Is Lithium Used?
Lithium is considered important to the new global agenda of going green that is done by switching to electric vehicles. China had mandated last year that electric vehicles will make up forty percent of all automobile sales by the year 2030. The European countries along with the United States are eager to make a transition to electric vehicles. Lithium is used in rechargeable batteries including the ones that are used in Laptops and mobile phones. The overall consumption of Lithium batteries has increased significantly in recent years. The main reason behind this is that recharged Lithium batteries are being used extensively in the market. It is mainly used for portable electronic devices, electronic tools, electric vehicles, and grid storage applications.
Why Are These Minerals Still Not Being Used?
There are many challenges in Afghanistan due to which these resources are still untouched. Security challenges, poor infrastructure, and severe droughts are some of the main reasons why these minerals are still not being used. As the Taliban will now rule Afghanistan, it has been stated that it is unlikely that there will be any change to see but many countries are taking interest in this particular topic including China, Pakistan, and India.
Huge Potential But No Aid
Afghanistan was in a low economic state even before United States president Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan and letting the Taliban rule over the country. Based on the estimation done by the Congressional Research Service in 2020, around 90% of Afghans were already living below the government-determined poverty level of $2 per day. The country, whose economic state was already suffering, is now in control of the Taliban. The World Bank had stated that the economy of Afghanistan remains ‘shaped by fragility and aid dependence”.
Afghanistan’s Private sector development and diversification are constrained by a lack of security, political instability, weak institutions, and poor infrastructure. With the widespread corruption in the country, it is very difficult to run any business. Afghanistan is suffering from a “resource curse” a situation faced by many countries whose government is weak. In this particular state, the available resources fail to provide any aid to local people and the domestic economy. The International Energy Agency said that global supplies of lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements needed to increase sharply or the world would fail in its attempt to tackle the climate crisis. Three countries: China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Australia currently account for 75% of the global output of lithium, cobalt, and rare piles of earth.
Demand for metals such as lithium and cobalt and rare earth elements such as neodymium is very high because countries are trying to switch to electric vehicles and other clean technologies to cut off carbon emissions. The United States government has estimated that Lithium deposits in Afghanistan can be bigger than those in Bolivia, which is considered to be the home of the world’s largest known reserves currently.
Though Afghanistan always had the potential to be in the race of economically developed or even one of the richest countries, the years of wars and no claim on the land have proved fatal.
Most of the country’s mineral wealth is still under the ground. The extraction of gold, copper, and iron have been done. But, these are conventional minerals, rare minerals such as Lithium will require much more investment and technician sound machines and staff. The IEA ( International Energy Agency ) has estimated that now it takes 16 years on average from discovering a deposit for a mine to start the actual production. Minerals in Afghanistan generating just $1 billion out of that almost 30%-40% are eaten up by the corruption as well as by warlords and the Taliban. Though the Taliban has never shown any interest but maybe in current times, there is a hope that the Taliban will take notice of this matter to make the country economically sound.
The willingness of the Taliban to direct their mind to the usefulness of the resources present in the country is skeptical as they will need to devote not only attention to minerals but also to a wide range of security and humanitarian issues. Taliban may have taken the power of running a country but they are still far away from applying a straightforward rule with complete governmental deeds. Taliban may not be able to invest any big amount in the extraction of these resources as they may lack funding and general public support. And another factor is who will invest in Afghanistan now even after no one was interested to do anything in the past.
A Clear Opportunity For China
China is the world leader in mining rare earth minerals and everyone is aware of how China has maintained communication with the Taliban in their present rule. China might use these rare minerals, especially Lithium as it is the next-door neighbor who cares about green energy development. The interest of China is justifiable as rare minerals such as Lithium are irreplaceable because of their physical properties and the fact that these are always included in long-term plans.
Though there have been concerns about China taking the lead here as the track record of this country is not very charming. Mining if not done carefully can be ecologically devastating and will harm certain segments of the population.
Looking into the history of the Taliban and the destruction they caused to Afghanistan, it is unlikely for them to go on the path that will lead to an economically sound country. Whatever has been seen by the group’s previous rule is oppression and harming of citizens. They did not do anything for the country and its well-being and people are scared of them, this can be settled by seeing how desperately people want to leave the country.
In no way, Afghanistan will rise as a world leader after the coming of the Taliban. It can be detected that the Taliban is not interested in giving the country anything, at least for now. They lack the resources to dig up the earth and utilize such rare-earth metals as Lithium. If the Taliban invests in this particular section then there will be no doubt that Afghanistan’s economic condition will rise but they will have to face many problems as well. Many skilled and knowledgeable people have already left the country to save their own lives or, let’s say, live a life without any oppression.
Taliban might not have any alliance to give knowledge about the same and, not many men are fans of the certainty that they are ruling Afghanistan. Neighbouring China may take all the mineral resources from them as China likes to thrive in every sector and, electronic stability and use of electric vehicles will rise in the coming years.