GT Exclusive: Chinese firm’s copper mine project in Afghanistan hasn’t started, despite Taliban’s push
Published: Dec 16, 2021 09:57 PM
Afghan children pose for photos at an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Afghan children pose for photos at an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

A Chinese company's copper mine project in Afghanistan, which has been stalled for years, has not started work as uncertainties and hurdles regarding the country's security and business environment remain, despite rising hope for resuming work on the project signaled by Afghan Taliban officials, Chinese sources told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday that the Taliban have resumed work with China on the Aynak Copper Mine project, which will be the world's second-largest copper mine when it opens, according to Russian news agency Sputnik.

However, despite hopes of resuming major cooperation projects, Chinese companies and businesses in the country said that there are still a lot of work needs to be done before progress on the copper mine, including for the Taliban to improve the conditions. 

A staffer from China Metallurgical Group, which is involved in the Aynak copper mine project, said on Thursday that there is no progress on the project. "The construction of the Aynak Copper Mine has not started yet, let alone resumed," said the staffer via the company's investor hotline, adding that the local unstable situation is the main barrier to construction.

Gao Susu, a staffer at the China Arab Economic and Trade Promotion Committee in Kabul, told the Global Times that the organization is not so optimistic about resuming work on the Aynak Copper Mine anytime soon.

"Officials of the Taliban said they have made multiple inspections of the mine and started negotiations with the owner, but we don't think the operation of the mine can resume now," said Gao.

Analysts said that despite the consensus about the Afghan Taliban's intention to speed up economic development and bring prosperity to the Afghan people, there is also the urgent need for the Afghan Taliban to beef up their capacity.

"Safety and poverty, and sincerity and low efficiency, both co-exist in today's Afghanistan," Zhou Rong, a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Clearly, the Afghan Taliban has the goodwill to kick-start the economy, attract foreign capital and create jobs for the benefits of the Afghan people, but goodwill alone is not enough," he said.

Zhou noted that the Taliban need to adopt a policy that can attract talent back, generate income for these skilled workers and foster trust, and they also need more experts, professional managers and technocrats for more efficient communication with foreign investors, including Chinese investors.

Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan released a notice on Friday, reminding Chinese companies and citizens not to blindly believe in any information and come to Afghanistan for mining cooperation.

According to the relevant regulations of the Afghan Interim government, foreign companies or individuals who come to Afghan to inspect mineral resources must obtain a related permit issued by the government in advance, otherwise law enforcement agencies in Afghanistan will seize and investigate, the embassy warned. 

The embassy said currently, there have been incidents of foreign citizens being detained without permits in various parts of the country.

Afghanistan is suffering severe challenges in the wake of the US' hasty pull-out from the country. 

Chinese analysts said that the US should stop aggravating the economic collapse in Afghanistan by lifting sanctions on the country and returning the frozen funds that belong to the country, allowing the Taliban to use the money to buy much-needed supplies for the Afghan people. 

Meanwhile, China has been helping the Afghan people by expanding bilateral trade with concrete contributions to Afghanistan's efforts to stabilize social order and revive its economy. China's second batch of winter supplies, including 70,000 blankets and more than 40,000 down coats donated by the Chinese people to help people there to weather the winter, arrived in Afghanistan earlier this week.

At a handover ceremony, Chinese Ambassador Wang Yu said that China would continue to enlarge cooperation with Afghanistan on the basis of equality and mutual respect, supporting the economic reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.

Moreover, via an "air corridor of pine nuts," over 1,000 tons of pine nuts from Afghanistan have been sold to China over the past two months.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that China is ready to explore cooperation in the economic reconstruction area once the situation in Afghanistan is stabilized and security conditions are ripe. 

In November, the Global Times exclusively reported that representatives of several Chinese companies had arrived in Afghanistan on special visas and were conducting on-site inspections of potential lithium projects. The massive deposits are estimated to be worth as much as $1 trillion.