Afghans accuse Chinese companies of 'looting' country's mines

By Emran

A general view of a marble mine in Saydabad district of Maidan Wardak province seen May 25. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

A general view of a marble mine in Saydabad district of Maidan Wardak province seen May 25. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

HERAT -- China has intensified its efforts to gain control of Afghanistan's mines and underground resources in recent years.

Over the past two years, more than 500 Chinese investors have come to Afghanistan to invest in Afghanistan's mines, and around 100 Chinese companies have registered themselves with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to invest in the country's mining sector.

But such investment benefits Beijing while leaving Afghanistan with very little, analysts say.

A Chinese state-owned company won the Amu Darya oil and gas contract in Sar-e-Pul province in July and has started extraction.

The base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, in Logar province, is seen May 17, 2022. An ancient Buddhist city carved out of immense peaks 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]

The base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, in Logar province, is seen May 17, 2022. An ancient Buddhist city carved out of immense peaks 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]

Another Chinese company is trying to win the rights to extract precious lithium from Afghanistan's mines. The Chinese are also after total access to the Mes Aynak copper mines in Logar province.

Lithium and copper are widely used in the automotive, battery and cell phone industries.

"China has stepped in ... to make the most profit out of Afghanistan's mines. By making small investments, China will make large profits," said Nader Azim, a political analyst in Herat.

"Chinese investment in Afghanistan's mines won't help its economy -- it will also cause environmental problems," he said. "In the present vacuum, China is trying to take over most of Afghanistan's valuable mines."

With no competition, China is landing single-source contracts to extract Afghanistan's mines, Azim said, adding that Beijing is making the most out of the situation.

While mines belong to the people of Afghanistan, in the current situation, they do not receive any profit from the extraction of minerals, said Din Mohammad, a tribal elder in Badghis province.

"Instead of helping Afghans in the current difficult situation, China has turned to looting our mines," he said.

"Mining contracts with China must be transparent and information should be shared with the people, but ... these contracts are done mostly in secret," he added. "Mines are national wealth that belongs to everyone. Any kind of unfair mining deal is a national betrayal."

Plundering of mines continues

The secret extraction of precious resources from Afghanistan's mines is ongoing in some provinces, say witnesses.

Dozens of trucks loaded with minerals extracted in Khaneshen and Desho districts of Helmand province first go to Pakistan and are then moved to China, a resident of Helmand told Salaam Times on the condition of anonymity.

The two districts have lithium and marble deposits.

"I have seen Chinese nationals several times extracting minerals in Helmand," he said. "People are not allowed to photograph the sites."

"There were a few small-scale mining activities in the past, but they have surged in recent months," he added. "Large trucks are loaded in mines and driven through deserts and remote areas. Machines have been brought for mining activities, which work around the clock."

Illegal mining is not limited to Helmand province.

Residents of Kunar province have also reported widespread extraction from mines, and the yields are then moved out of the country.

These include gemstone mines in Chapa Dara and Manogai district that contain tourmaline, kunzite, crystal, morganite and other minerals.

Chinese engineers are involved in the extraction of minerals and precious stones are transported abroad by car daily, said Sahib Khan, a resident of Manogai district.

"In the past, there were small-scale mining activities of precious stones by the locals, but lately local power brokers have taken over these mines and extract precious stones with the co-operation of Chinese experts," he said.

"These stones are very precious and do not have a market in Afghanistan ... the Chinese move these stones via Pakistan to China. Extraction is done in total secrecy, and the public is not allowed to go to the mining sites."

Residents used to earn a small income from the extraction of precious stones, but in the past year they have received nothing, Khan said.

Hindering Afghanistan's development

Investing in mines and providing loans with unclear terms to Afghanistan are China's way of trying to establish control over the country, observers say.

By offering expensive loans to Afghanistan, the government of China wants to repeat the experience of some African countries, said Sayed Ashraf Saadat, an Afghan civil society activist based in Sweden.

"By giving expensive loans to some African countries, China has brought them completely under its control," he said. "China's goal is to subjugate weak governments by giving them big loans to benefit from their mines and natural resources."

"By investing in the mining sector, China wants to expand its influence in Afghanistan," he said. "China wants to show to the world that it has control over Afghanistan and can easily access the rich minerals of the country."

But Chinese investments and loans will prevent Afghanistan from growth and development, warned Saadat.

China relies heavily on raw materials and will try to gain access to Afghanistan's wealth of minerals at any cost, said Mohammad Rafi Hamidi, a Herat-based economist.

"In terms of minerals, Afghanistan is a suitable opportunity for China. With very little cost, it easily extracts valuable minerals," he said. "Because of its proximity to Afghanistan, [China] can easily transport minerals back to China."

"Unfortunately, China does not adhere to international standards in its mining contracts in Afghanistan," Hamidi said. "These contracts are very basic and one-sided. As a result of which, Afghanistan receives very little profit from these mining contracts."

International specialists should be involved in preparing mining contracts, Hamidi added.

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According to him, the second factor that caused China's interest in Afghanistan is Beijing's concern about the spread and development of insecurity to China and fueling separatism in China from Afghanistan, especially in Xinjiang province. He believes that China's economic cooperation with Afghanistan has a security and political flavor. China is looking for stability in Afghanistan, because instability in Afghanistan can cause the growth of extremism, because instability of Afghanistan can endanger China's position in the region. Is the type of regime in Kabul important for China? A basic question is, what is the ideal type of Chinese regime in Kabul? And does the change of the political system bring a change in China's approach towards this country or not? The Soviet Union tried the communist governing system in Afghanistan, but it was not successful, and the United States also brought the Islamic Republic system, which did not achieve the desired results and collapsed at the same time as the United States left. Mr. Zayeri believes that the type of government system in Afghanistan is not important for China, whether it is a system based on the will of the people or a completely authoritarian system, the only thing that is important for China is the stability of Afghanistan. According to him, the main motivation of China's presence in Afghanistan and interest in investing in Afghanistan is to limit the influence of the United States in the first step and to prevent instabilit


Considering Beijing's increasing efforts to invest and stabilize Afghanistan, now the question is that, what made Kabul so important to Beijing? What China has done so far in the economic and diplomatic sector is considered the initial steps in the direction of influence in Afghanistan. Husain Mehrami, an economist, believes that China, as a newly emerging and decisive economic power, is seeking political concentration in the region and is trying to establish itself as a decisive power in the region, and its presence in Afghanistan is part of the program. According to Mr. Mehrami, the second reason why Afghanistan is important for China is China's rapid economic development and the country's need for raw material all over the world. Afghanistan, in China's neighborhood, has untouched natural resources and raw materials that are desirable to China. According to him, China's "Belt and Road" plan has also made Afghanistan one of China's desirable destinations. Afghanistan can be a link between China and other countries. Asadullah Zayeri, a university professor in Kabul, also believes that when a country like Afghanistan, which is of special importance from a geopolitical point of view, is placed next to a strategic power like China, it becomes more important. Afghanistan shares a 92-kilometer land border with China in a mountainous region that is of great importance to China. In his opinion, China's active and peaceful presence in Afghanistan also depends on two factors. First, t


What do Chinese do in Kabul? This spring, the Taliban's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum announced the visit of officials and representatives of the Chinese company "Gochin" to Afghanistan and wrote that they have announced the investment of a capital of $10 billion to extract Afghanistan's lithium reserves in a meeting with Shahabuddin Delawar, acting minister of the ministry. In addition to investing in this sector, this company also promised to rebuild the strategic crossing of Salang within seven months and said that it will also dig another tunnel in Salang. Also, in exchange for lithium extraction, he promised Mr. Delaware the asphalting of the Kunar-Laghman road and the construction of a hydro-power plant in the area. In the winter of last year, the expression of China's interest in investing in the production of 500 megawatts of electricity from coal was published, and the representative of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, in a meeting with Mohammad Hanif Hamzah, executive chairman of Da Afghanistan Breshna company said that China has experience of producing electricity from coal in 11 countries. The Taliban Ministry of Industry and Trade has also said that China is interested in connecting the two countries through Wakhan Corridor or the Silk Road. With the realization of this project, both sides are looking forward to increase exchanges between Beijing and Kabul, a process that can play a vital role in increasing the income of the Afghan government. Meanwhile, Abdul S


In a recent interview, the former President of the now-defunct Afghan republic, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, strongly condemned China's pledges to invest in Afghanistan. Mr. Ghani asserted that China's newly promised investments in Afghanistan are speculative, and the country has already signed investment agreements in many areas, but none of them have been implemented. In this regard, he mentioned China's promise to build 10,000 houses, mining contracts, etc., and said that the tools to implement these promises in China are weak and will cost Afghanistan a fortune. Chinese and Afghan Taliban authorities have not responded to Mr. Ghani's criticism. Last week, the Chinese President accepted the letter of credence of Bilal Karimi, the ambassador representing the Taliban regime. This move has sparked strong reactions from several Taliban opposition groups, including the United States, interpreting it as an implicit recognition of the Taliban despite being undeclared.


Please do not be unjust when you are writing something. Afghans do not accuse the Chinese. The accusation is one thing and the truth is another. We do not accuse the Chinese, what we say is the truth. Although China shows itself as a superpower, it has never provided economic assistance to Afghans and Afghanistan. I remember well, it was in 2001 or early 2002, in an international conference where the countries of the world were declaring the amounts of their aids to Afghanistan, China said that it is ready to help Afghanistan with $1 million. What does one million dollars mean? And from a country with a huge economy, with vast facilities and excellent technology! The truth is that China has always tried and tries to use the countries of the world, especially the countries that are economically weak, for its own interests. What has been started in the region called BRI is only for China's own interests. They want to bring the region and the world under their new domination or colonization. Afghanistan's mines are one of the projects that China wants to acquire and use its raw materials for the benefit of its own country. Instead, it only gives Afghan politicians a few Afghani or a few dollars and convinces them to Let dirty China loot Afghanistan's mines. If China really wanted the good of Afghanistan, if the other countries of the world who show themselves as supporters of Afghans and Afghanistan, were honest in their words, they should train Afghan professional cadres so that


I agree.
When a few illiterate persons are in charge of the mines, they can easily be cheated and the mines get looted, and withdrawn raw from Afghanistan and process it outside of the country, and then resell it back to Afghanistan and other countries thousands of times higher. This way they get a lot of benefits and Afghanistan remain in the same poverty and misery.


Western media also plays a strange role. The United States, including NATO, spent the past 20 years in Afghanistan. At that time, I didn't hear anything from any Western media about the mining activities in Afghanistan. Now that the US has left Afghanistan, it is inevitable that the officials of Afghanistan will sign contracts with any country that they like regarding mining. The Americans and their allies stole a lot from Afghanistan. They did what they wanted to do. At that time, the Americans did not get permission from the Afghan government or the Afghans; they did everything independently. It is certain that, neither then nor now, there were any technical persons with the Afghans in the mining field. It would have been better if the Afghans had been given a hand during the presence of the Western world in Afghanistan. At that time, Westerners did not do anything in terms of extracting minerals. Considering their interests, they should have tried to find a piece of bread for the Afghans, but nothing happened. Now, the question is, why is the Western media angry about the participation of China and other countries in this field? This is at a time when all the aid from the West is blocked for the Afghans, and they are still trying for it. At this time, Afghan officials are forced to do something for the nation after taking over the country. Either China or Russia will certainly help Afghanistan in the region. If we tell the truth, the Westerners lost this chance. I say that


We have the capacity to develop in the processing sector. Selling raw material is a temporary market and we should try to create suitable platforms for creating sustainable employment in Afghanistan by formulating long-term plans.


With the reduction of international aid to Afghanistan, perhaps the best way to save the country's economy is to promote exports through other sectors, especially selling the minerals. Off course, if these materials are processed, they will have multiple times more value. The processing of minerals in the value chain of mineral industries is the foundation of high added value that can be useful for Afghanistan in a bad economic crisis. After processing, mineral stones have a high value, and this is something that should be looked at in a special way. Afghanistan is a poor country that has many mines, but the lack of necessary infrastructure has made the issue of processing the mines not get a proper place. Of course, the sanctions and some interference have caused investors to face problems. Selling raw materials prevents us from developing In the export of mineral products, we should try not to export these products in raw form. When minerals are exported in raw form, employment opportunities are reduced. This issue makes the added value of these materials decrease for us and they are easily available to other countries. Today, many countries that export processed mineral materials are the first importers of minerals, and we, who have large mineral resources in Afghanistan, should not miss this opportunity. Selling raw material prevents us from the path of development, many developed countries managed to solve their economic problems by creating added value from these raw ma


The Chinese are very obnoxious people and do not value friendship. China wants to extract minerals from Afghanistan as soon as possible because they know that if the Americans get free, they will expel them from Afghanistan. Therefore, they poke into everything and try their best to extract minerals from Afghanistan in every possible way. Perhaps they have come to extract minerals and extend their influence. They also carry out certain intelligence work to save themselves from the future dangers of the United States. On the other hand, they want to know about any future power that comes to Afghanistan.


During Karzai's era, a journalist asked Hamid Karzai in an interview, why don't you extract the mines? He replied that if we do this, what will the future generations of Afghanistan eat, and what will they do? He said if Afghanistan's mines are to be extracted, they should be extracted in a professional and standard way. During the time of Ashraf Ghani, the mines were handled carefully, and no one was allowed to extract them in a non-standard manner. But now, there is a lot of theft in the mines of Afghanistan. The current government has signed many contracts, and work is underway on hundreds of mines. But no one cares how China or any other country is extracting them. The future generation of Afghanistan will start begging.


During the Republic era in Afghanistan, according to government estimates, Afghanistan has about 2.2 billion metric tons of iron ore, 1.3 billion metric tons of marble, about 30 million metric tons of copper, and 1.4 million metric tons of rare earth minerals as well as 2,700 kilograms of gold reserves. A total of 1,400 mineral reserves have been identified throughout the country. Minerals are clustered in three different areas. The first belt, which stretches from Herat in the southwest to Badakhshan in the northeast, contains iron ore, gold, copper, barite, coal, and precious stones. The second belt, extending from Helmand to Zabul and Ghazni provinces in the south, contains deposits of copper, gold, molybdenum, zinc, sulfur, and chromite. After all, the area around Kabul has copper deposits, including Aynak's world-class mine. It is at a time when Pakistan and China are looting Afghanistan's mines in a way as if it is their homeland, not the land of Afghans. Currently, China has the fourth most significant amount of coal in the world, with an amount of 149 billion 818 million 259 thousand tons, accounting for 13.1% of the world's coal, and the fifth place in India, which has 107 billion 726 million 551 thousand tons of coal. And it makes up 9.5% of the world's coal. Besides, Pakistan ranks 20th in the list of the world's 100 most coal-rich countries with 3 billion 377 million 477 thousand tons of coal, which makes up 0.3% of the world's coal. However, China is very shameles