Afghans voice concern over plans to sign lithium mining contracts with Chinese

By Sulaiman

This photograph taken on May 17, 2022, shows an archaeological site in Mes Aynak, Logar province. The ancient Buddhist city near Kabul is in danger of disappearing forever, swallowed up by a Chinese consortium exploiting one of the world's largest copper deposits. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

This photograph taken on May 17, 2022, shows an archaeological site in Mes Aynak, Logar province. The ancient Buddhist city near Kabul is in danger of disappearing forever, swallowed up by a Chinese consortium exploiting one of the world's largest copper deposits. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- With Afghanistan in political, economic and social turmoil, predatory Chinese firms are poised to sign lopsided lithium mining contracts at the expense of the Afghan people and state.

The Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP) issued a statement on April 13, saying that its officials have met with representatives of Gochin, a Chinese company that intends to enter into contracts with Kabul for Afghanistan's lithium mines.

Analysts have long criticised the possibility of awarding lithium rights to the Chinese, stating that the Chinese will exploit the resource.

Since August 2021, Afghanistan has lacked trained personnel to review such contracts properly.

Plundering in poor countries

"China needs raw materials and natural resources to become the number one economy in the world. It uses different legal and illegal methods, including smuggling and bribery, to achieve this goal," said Abdul Baseer Ranjbar, a London-based economic analyst.

"It will enter into contracts and build alliances with leaders who lack national and international legitimacy," Ranjbar told Salaam Times.

"Afghanistan is rich in natural resources and plays the role of a crossroads in the region," he said.

"For its future plans, China invests in the mines of its neighbours and implements different economic projects in the region so that its rivals cannot exert political and economic influence in the region."

"Part of China's economic strategy is to saddle poor countries with crippling loans, which permanently bury them under debt and make them dependent," he said.

Taking advantage

Nobody remaining in Kabul is qualified to defend Afghan interests, say analysts.

"I have doubts about ... different aspects of this potential contract. If the contract is not properly and thoroughly assessed [in Kabul] ... the Chinese will definitely take most of the profit, leaving the people of Afghanistan with the loss," said Shaker Yaqoobi, a Kabul professor and economic analyst.

"China sees an opportunity in Afghanistan and wants to take advantage to further its political and economic interests in Afghanistan and the region," Yaqoobi told Salaam Times.

"The Chinese are well experienced in capturing and exploiting mines in poor countries," said Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, a Kabul professor and political analyst.

On the other hand, since August 2021, Kabul has "lacked any expertise and knowledge in the mining field", he said.

"If the lithium mining contract is signed with a Chinese company, Afghans will definitely lose in such a contract and the Chinese will take most of the profit," he said.

"In the Amu Darya contract, which was signed with a Chinese firm, international standards were not taken into consideration," he said, referring to an oil and gas extraction deal announced in January.

"These standards will not be considered in a potential lithium contract, either."

The Chinese received the Amu Darya contract and will receive the pending lithium contract without a bidding process, he explained.

A contract with the Chinese definitely does not favour Afghanistan, said Sayed Zaman Hashemi, former CEO of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment and a former general counsel at MoMP.

"For 20 years, with the international community's support, MoMP developed capacity," he told Salaam Times.

Now most of its trained personnel have fled, and the "remaining ones were fired", he said from Canada, where he now lives.

Nobody working in Kabul now is qualified to evaluate mining contracts, he said, adding that even minor contracts can "be at least 100 to 150 pages".

'Obviously illegal'

"The legitimacy of contracts stems from legitimate governments," added Hashemi.

The present-day deals between Kabul and Beijing therefore "are obviously illegal", he said.

"The Chinese ... are like smugglers. They sign illegal contracts to plunder or monopolise the natural resources of other countries and make them permanently dependent," Hashemi said.

"All the systems set up [before August 2021] fell apart," said Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar, a former MoMP deputy minister now living in Türkiye.

"All experts, professionals and academics fled the country," he said.

Most of today's MoMP employees, "who have only a basic education, know nothing about mining", he said.

Any contract with the Chinese now "will be illegal, lacking in credibility and harmful to Afghans", he told Salaam Times.

"Mines in a country do not belong to one generation but to all members of the public and to future generations. They are to be used in the development, stability and prosperity of the people."

"But now it seems that all of the mines in Afghanistan will ... benefit a few individuals and the Chinese," he said.

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Anyone and any country that uses Afghanistan's mines must use them, but all their activities must be legal. Afghanistan's mines have been extracted and smuggled in a very cruel and unprofessional manner for the past four decades, which is a great injustice against the oppressed people and land. I would say people should accept responsibilities in this area. First, stop smuggling and then get detailed information from technical and non-technical people to help the government.


In the current situation, China is the only country that is willing to invest in Afghanistan's mines. China extracts Afghanistan's mines without considering international mining laws. This is a fact that is happening, but what is the solution? In the past years, Afghanistan's mines were illegally smuggled by regional warlords, and no revenue from Afghanistan's mines was collected by the Afghan government, and the previous government did not have sovereignty over its mines. Everyone extracted Afghanistan's mines by force of arms and illegally transferred them to the neighboring countries, especially to Pakistan. Then, China used to buy the raw materials of Afghanistan's mines from Pakistan, and because of this, Pakistan received a lot of income. In these two years, the current government of Afghanistan has a strong rule over the entire Afghanistan. No one can smuggle Afghanistan's mines to other countries. Other countries were not ready to buy Afghanistan's mines, and China is the only country that is willing to buy Afghanistan's mines. The Afghan government is also forced to sign a contract with China without considering any international principles and laws.


After the August 2021 development in Afghanistan, Afghanistan practically fell under the grip of Pakistan, Iran, and Russia. Pakistan is looting the mines of Afghanistan, and now Iran has also started this looting. Mohammad Karim, governor of Sistan and Baluchistan, says that the Taliban regime has agreed with him on processing Afghanistan's mines in Iran. He said this agreement was signed last March with the Minister of Industries and Trade of the Taliban, Nooruddin Azizi. The news agency (Tasnim) related to Iran's intelligence force, the Revolutionary Guards, wrote that Azizi traveled to Zahedan on March 22, 2022, and requested to increase the level of trade between Afghanistan and Iran from $2 billion per year to $10 billion. According to the mentioned Iranian official, the source adds that the processing of Afghanistan's minerals in Iran is due to the availability of infrastructure, commercial and border capacities, and the establishment of joint ventures. The necessary agreements with Qatar, China, and Afghanistan in the field of transportation are part of these agreements. The Taliban regime has not said anything about it. All this means that Afghanistan is no longer a country of Afghans but divided among Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and China; however, the question is, whom should we count on? America? Europe? Whom? But we have lost our capabilities. Cadres fled, and schools and universities were closed to prevent the formation of other cadres. What will happen in the end?


China is like a dragon that may eventually swallow all the countries in the region, and then other countries in Asia and later other continents. China's activity is not like that of the Soviet Union who directly attacked Afghanistan and killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, nor is it like the United States, which attacked Afghanistan in the name of terrorism, and later when the terrorist leader was recovered in Pakistan, they did not even asked Pakistan why it had given a safe place to the leader of the terrorists for five years in its own land and beside a military academy? When we talk about work like this, China moves slowly like a snake. It will not bring the countries of the region under his rule by arms, but it will bring the countries of the region and maybe the whole world under its tutelage economically. We do not like China and the reason is clear. This dirty country did not contribute even $20 million to Afghanistan during 20 years. Now, at a time as it considers itself a supporter of the Taliban, but it has not provided any aids to the people of Afghanistan, and we should not expect that China will provide financial assistance to our country. Regarding the topics of aid, we must say that our country has been destroyed all by these big economic countries, whether it was directly or indirectly. Now it is the duty of all the great powers of the world to provide financial, economic, technical assistance... for the reconstruction of our country Afghanistan.


The above report was read, but the analyst is too political and one-sided. If China was such a thief, why would the previous regime have given the Logar copper mine to them? They were good as they made the contract; when others made it, China became a thief. Pity on you for such analyses.


Considering the destructive history of Chinese projects in other countries, the current rulers of Afghanistan should not sign contracts for Afghan mines with China at any cost. Not long ago, I heard that China has taken over the port of Gwadar in exchange for the loans it had given to Pakistan. Also, Chinese state-owned and private banks lend to foreign countries and in return earn illicit profits from those countries. If the loans of Chinese banks are not paid on time, they increase their interest three times or four times. Therefore, we must not allow China's dirty feet to reach in our country. We should not allow China to invest in our mines, nor in building other infrastructures.


China is an unlucky and selfish country. She always wants all the profit for herself; however, in today's world, people like for others what they like for themselves, which benefits both sides. As a result of these conflicts, China may have robbed up to 10 countries of their land and their underground and on-ground resources. Not only is China looting a country's help, but it also incurs so much debt that no one can get rid of it for years. Looking at these cases, it would be better if the rulers of Afghanistan avoided them. There is a proverb in Pashto, "Be either far from the monster or keep silent," so our benefit will be that we pass the hot interest of China so that the cold debts will not be charged again and the annual tax not be asked for. The current government of Afghanistan, which the people are still angry with, should avoid making any agreement with China (if they are in any area) so that the people will not be in debt for years to come.


China has indeed implemented such projects in Sri Lanka, Kenya, and other countries that benefited only China. This means that the projects are built on the land of the host countries and with their money, but the profit goes to the Chinese government banks. Because on the one hand, they give loans for the implementation of the projects, and on the other hand, they charge high interest on the loans. Worse, if China's debt is not paid back on time, they charge two or three times more interest while rescheduling the payment plan. And this is what breaks the back of the host countries. I call on the new government of Afghanistan, which has neither national nor international legitimacy nor has it been recognized by the Afghans nor by the international community, to refrain from signing any agreement with China. China is a thief, Chinese people are thieves, the Chinese government is oppressive and cruel, they are oppressing Muslims, and they eat dogs' meat. When a person eats the heart of a man's loyal friend (dog), how can he expect good from him? I say that it is not possible. Considering the above points, Afghan authorities should refrain from signing any agreement with China that will plunder Afghanistan's natural resources. In addition, if China wants to pass a road and railway through Afghanistan to Iran or Central Asia, the Afghan government should take the right of way over the land used to construct the road and railway. Because a kilometer-long highway built according to


Those who were shouting that they are sacrificing themselves but they are not losing the fighting strongholds, those who were chanting that they will defend the country until their souls are in their bodies, those who were educated with the expenditures of this country and obtained higher education abroad, instead of serving this country and this poor nation, on the contrary, they sucked the blood of this poor nation and ran away from their homeland. Engineers, miners all fled from this country, and left. For them, the homeland had no importance and has no importance. They were thinking just about getting their red passports. China has taken advantage of the opportunity and has transferred all the mines of Afghanistan in official and unofficial way, i.e. smuggled. One day you will see that China has transferred Afghanistan's mines to their own country and we Afghans would not even know about it. We may be proud that Afghanistan has many minerals, but we are unaware that China has transferred all the minerals of Afghanistan to their country.