With a new oil agreement, China gets closer to Afghanistan’s rare earth reserves

China gets closer to Afghanistan's rare earth reserves

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, the Chinese Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co (CAPEIC) signed a contract with the Taliban-run country. On January 5, Sheikh Shahabuddin Dilawar, the Taliban’s acting minister of mines and petroleum, announced the agreement under which a Chinese company would produce oil from Afghanistan’s northern Amu Darya basin.

Details about with a new oil agreement, China gets closer to Afghanistan’s rare earth reserves

The Taliban-run government’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, wrote in a tweet, “The corporation (CPEIC) will invest $150 million in one year and $540 million in the following three years. The [Taliban regime] will first be a 20% partner in this agreement, and their stake would eventually rise to 75%.

He continued by saying that this project would provide jobs for some 3000 Afghans, helping the country’s economy and development.

In addition to its oil reserves, Afghanistan is thought to contain minerals and rare earth elements valued between $1 and $3 trillion. Ahmed Shah Katwazai, a former diplomat at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, DC, said that Afghanistan possesses veins of aluminium, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium in addition to rare earth minerals including lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium. In the absence of significant rivalry within the nation, China may be attempting to offer an unrestricted opportunity to utilise these factors.

Rare earth elements (REE) are frequently distributed, which implies that they are rarely found in sufficiently large, concentrated clumps to be mineable. These minerals were given the name rare earth due to their rarity.

China controls the world market for rare earths, according to the United States Geological Survey. The majority of the world’s reserves of rare earths are thought to be held by China. The majority of the rare earth minerals utilised in high-tech fields including electronics, defence, and renewable energy are produced and supplied by this country. China is likely looking into a number of methods for maintaining a steady supply of rare earth, albeit the country has been experiencing rising competition in the global market for these minerals.

One gramme of rare earth elements can be found in one cell phone, according to Sean P. Dudley, a US forensics engineer. For one cell phone, 52 grammes of rare earth ore must be mined, at best recovery. When you multiply it by the estimated 6.8 billion people on the planet, you need 3,90,000 tonnes of ore. Think about our infrastructure grid and laptops—and that’s just our cell phones.

The use of REE is widespread; these abundant minerals are essential to important development in everything from satellites to aircraft to semiconductor chips to the automotive industry. We cannot minimise the effort required to separate the rich, polished minerals from the raw ores. We can now visualise the decline in ore resources’ availability.

China is adamantly working to modernise and unify its upstream mining, processing, manufacturing, and deeper uses rare earth supply chain.

Professorial Lecturer of International Studies at De La Salle University Manila in the Philippines, Xianbin Yao, estimates that China only holds roughly one-third of the world’s reserves of rare earths. China today produces 60% of the rare earths that are mined globally, has 85% of the capacity to process rare earths, and produces 90% of the high-strength rare earth permanent magnets. Chinese-controlled rare earth alloys and magnets are essential components of missiles, weapons, radars, and stealth aircraft.

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