With the swift fall of Afghanistan to Taliban fighters, two decades after an invasion by Western forces, a political and humanitarian crisis is taking place. The untapped mineral wealth in the country has also become worrisome for security experts who wonder what will happen now that this natural resource may be exploited or sold off completely as militancy continues to take root in Afghan soil. The mining industry is often seen as a major cause of environmental pollution, but the rise in electric vehicles and renewable energy sources has led to renewed interest. Supplies of minerals such as iron, copper, gold are scattered across provinces.
There are also rare earth minerals and most importantly one could be the world’s biggest deposit for lithium – an essential component that can help tackle climate change due to its role on rechargeable batteries or other technologies vital like solar power. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has created a “perfect storm” for mining in the country. The US invasion may have disrupted some resources, but it also opened up new opportunities to extract oil and gas from untapped fields. China is eager to get its hands on any resource it can find because its own reserves are dwindling as we rely more heavily upon renewable energy sources like solar power or wind turbines which require fewer materials than coal-fired plants that consume vast amounts of metals such as copper.
The security challenges faced by Afghan miners who work with all manner of explosives every day include constant threats not just from insurgents, but other forms of violence too – drug cartels smuggling heroin over remote border crossings pose an ever-present danger when combined with police corruption. The country of Afghanistan has an unfortunate track record with poverty, to say the least. In 2020, 90% of Afghans were living below the government-determined poverty level and this number is only increasing as time goes on.
However, in its latest country profile by World Bank, it reports that private sector development and diversification remains constrained due to insecurity from political instability caused primarily through conflict over territory between ISIS militants vs Taliban insurgents or other groups vying for power within Afghanistan’s borders. The resource curse is a phrase used to describe the unintended consequences of countries with weak governments. When efforts are made for exploiting natural resources, they often fail to provide benefits and only enrich those in power or outside forces like multinational corporations.
However, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has offered promise as it was discovered by Soviet Union surveys years ago but after more recent revelations about its true extent have been revealed there may be hope that this will finally change things for locals who up until now had little access to such prosperity because their government couldn’t do anything substantial with what they were given. The International Energy Agency released a new report in May detailing the critical need for countries to be cognizant of their natural resources and how they are being used. The study focuses on four minerals: lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt; three countries — China, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Australia – that currently has 75% global output capacity.
The average electric car requires six times more minerals than a conventional one, according to the IEA. Lithium and nickel are needed in batteries for power while rare earth elements are used in magnets that create wind turbines. Copper is also necessary for electricity networks alongside aluminum because of its strength where it doesn’t corrode as quickly as steel does when exposed to oxygen or saltwater environments due to its low reactivity with air, which makes it perfect outdoors without rusting too much over time. Afghanistan is rich in minerals, but corruption and the Taliban have been siphoning off a significant amount of revenue. The mining industry generates just $1 billion per year for Afghans right now according to Khan who estimates that 30% – 40% has gone missing due to these factors.