Afghanistan’s minerals are mouth-watering and China may be first ...

World

Afghanistan’s minerals are mouth-watering and China may be first in line

The country, rich in lithium, holds huge economic and strategic value as long as the Taliban plays its cards right

Iain Marlow and Enda Curran

When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the global economy looked a lot different: Tesla wasn’t a company, the iPhone didn’t exist and artificial intelligence was best known as a Steven Spielberg film.

Now all three are at the cutting edge of a modern economy driven by advancements in hi-tech chips and large-capacity batteries that are made with a range of minerals, including rare earths. And Afghanistan is sitting on deposits estimated to be worth $1-trillion or more, including what may be the world’s largest lithium reserves – if anyone can get them out of the ground.

Four decades of war – first with the Soviet Union, then between warring tribes, then with the US – prevented that from happening. That’s not expected to change any time soon, with the Taliban already showing signs it wants to reimpose a theocracy that turns back the clock on women’s rights and other basic freedoms rather than lead Afghanistan to a prosperous future...

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