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A Huge Potential

After triggering of a Global Humanitarian Crisis, there has been a renewed focus on whether Afghanistan can regain its economic strength with a substantial amount of hidden treasure! However, the Taliban, who have just seized power in the war-ravaged country, may not be aware of the requisite technological procedures in extracting the same.

The Taliban hardly had much of an idea about this hidden treasure. The US Forces and Geologists, who have spent two decades in the South Asian nation, discovered it 10 years ago. Afghanistan is sitting on USD 1 trillion worth of minerals, including Lithium! Lithium is used in batteries of pollution-free vehicles and also in mobile phone batteries. However, this chemical element (lightest metal and the lightest solid element) is rare in nature, and the method of extracting it from the mine is also a very complicated process. Hence, the widespread use of Lithium is still not possible in the modern world. Geologists are of the opinion that this extremely rare treasure, hidden beneath the ground, could bring the Afghan Economy back on track. Afghanistan is also rich with many rare elements, including copper, gold, iron ore etc., which could change the fate of the Taliban-ruled country.

Copper (green colour) on the stone, Afghanistan

The World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials, and also the top Taliban leadership are not confident about the future of the Afghan Economy. The Taliban leaders are well aware of the fact that no Western Power would invest in the troubled nation, especially after experiencing the Taliban Regime from 1996 to 2001. No foreign millionaire or investor might agree to invest there.

Currently, the Afghan Economy is in dire straits. As per a Report prepared by the Research Service of the US Congress in June 2021, about 90% of the total Afghan population (or 38,928,347 people) were below the poverty line, set by the Government, in 2020. In other words, their daily earnings were not more than USD 2. It was the Afghan Economic scenario in 2020, even after two decades of Democratic Rule in the country! According to a WB Report published in March 2021, the Afghan Economy is highly fragile and dependent on foreign aid and funding. Various issues hamper the development of private entrepreneurships and the diversification of industry and businesses. Some of those are: lack of security of citizens, lack of political stability, poorly run government institutions, inadequacy of business infrastructure, widespread corruption, and lack of business environment.

Scientist, Security Expert and founder of Ecological Futures Group Rod Schoonover has said: “The Taliban is now sitting on some of the most important strategic minerals in the world. Whether they can/will utilise them will be an important question going forward.” In order to tackle Global Warming and Climate Change, the use of fossil fuels must be stopped and electric vehicles must be introduced. Hence, Lithium, Copper, Aluminum and Neodymium would be required to recharge the batteries. Bolivia, now, has the largest reserves of the mineral Lithium. However, Afghanistan’s reserves could compete with that of Bolivia’s. Australia, China and Democratic Republic of the Congo are the top three countries in the world, as far as supply of much needed elements, like Lithium, Cobalt and Nickel (75% of the global production), are concerned. Interestingly, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth can compete with these countries. A proper utilisation of these minerals could make Afghanistan one of the richest countries in Asia, within a decade!

Illegal mining of Lapis Lazuli, a gem, is a major source of revenue for the Taliban

Experts have claimed that the minerals help Afghanistan earn USD 1 billion every year at the moment. Unfortunately, Kabul fails to utilise 30-40% of that amount in development projects due to corruption. The discovery of new mines and extraction of minerals have not been possible for long because of lack of technology and infrastructure, lack of government foresight and fear of Taliban. The question arises here is: Will the situation change in Afghanistan during the Taliban Regime this time? Will it be possible for the Taliban to enjoy the benefits of huge mineral resources and to boost the National Economy in order to stay in power? Experts are still sceptical about this.

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