Will the soil of Helmand, soaked in British soldiers' blood, now be mined by China for billions?

Afghanistan contains some of the World’s most precious metals needed for climate change technologies

Montage © Facts4EU.Org

Has Joe Biden just handed an economic and strategic goldmine to China?

A Facts4EU.Org two-part report

1. Summary of military, economic, islamic facts about Afghanistan (Yesterday - click to read)
2. Will the soil of Helmand, soaked in British soldiers' blood, now be mined by China for billions? (This report)

Afghanistan is now thought to be possibly the richest repository in the World of lithium, gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, chromite, uranium, and aluminium. And this is to say nothing of its massive resources of precious stones such as diamonds and rubies.

In the part of Afghanistan where many British soldiers lost their lives or were badly maimed or injured, lie deposits of precious ‘rare earth elements’ and other vital metals worth billions, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Some of these are essential in the production of ‘green’ alternatives to our current transport technologies.

And China has already secured mining rights to some of these riches - in at least one case for 30 years.

Map left: Part of the Helmand valley. © USGS - click to enlarge.

“The Saudi Arabia of Lithium”

Way back in 2010 a leaked memo from the Pentagon (reported in the New York Times) said Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". And this was before lithium had become an essential strategic resource in powering the ‘green agenda’ now being pursued vigorously by western nations including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Put simply, if Boris Johnson is outlawing new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – and that is the declared policy of the UK Government – then the new electric cars will need lithium and other ‘rare earth elements’ for their batteries or we will all be going nowhere.

Has President Biden just handed China a golden gift worth trillions?

Estimates of the worth of the rich mineral deposits contained in Afghanistan vary widely, but in 2010 they were estimated by the US at over $1 trillion dollars. In 2019 Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum put the estimate far higher. We have seen estimates as high as $3 trillion given to various US government departments at a series of meetings in Washington in the early 2010s.

Detailed research by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that Afghanistan may hold 60 million metric tons of copper - worth $540 billion at today’s prices. They also estimated 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, and – crucially - 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements (REEs) such as lithium, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, aluminium, gold, silver, zinc, and mercury.

The US Department of Defense, who quickly got involved in this research, even announced that their initial analysis in just one Afghan province alone showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia, which has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

Countering the Chinese threat - Remember President Trump?

In 2008, Reuters were reporting that Chinese companies had been signing contracts to develop the enormous untapped potential of Afghanistan’s underground natural resources – over which British soldiers fought and in some cases paid the ultimate price.

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, his administration recognised the critical strategic importance of many of the ‘rare earth elements’ and other minerals cited above. It was announced that the Bureau of Energy Resources would establish the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI). Below we quote some statements from its key objectives.

“Increasing demand for renewable energy, electric vehicles, and battery storage technologies will create unprecedented demand for energy resource minerals. ERGI is a U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Energy Resources led effort designed to promote sound mining sector governance and resilient energy mineral supply chains.”

“Over 80 percent of the global supply chain of rare earth elements, important minerals for electric vehicles and wind turbine components, is controlled by one country.”

US Bureau of Energy Resources - Energy Resource Governance Initiative

Could Cornish lithium soon be powering our electric vehicles?

As President Biden gives up Afghanistan to China and Russia, could Cornwall come to the rescue? Cornwall is not only for cream teas.

Lithium is very rarely found worldwide. Unknown to most British people, however, it has been found in Cornwall. In 2016 a new British mineral exploration company was set up to focus on the sustainable extraction of lithium and other battery metals in the county’s historically significant mining district. Cornish Lithium Ltd has secured extensive mineral rights agreements across more than 500km2 of Cornwall and is working towards commercial drilling operations starting in 2024.

Two months ago the Company announced that it had successfully completed the construction of its Geothermal Water Test Site in Cornwall and installed its first demonstration plant to trial environmentally-responsible Direct Lithium Extraction (‘DLE’) process technologies. It is therefore far ahead of any exploratory moves by the Chinese in Afghanistan, where any form of mining is fraught with difficulties.

It remains to be seen, but could Cornwall become the EU’s essential source of a key raw material in the technology needed for the EU Commission’s No.1 priority: tackling climate change?


The Facts4EU.Org team read a great many documents in the preparation of this report. Interestingly, the majority of the documents we attempted to access – which had previously been available for public view – are now no longer available. These come up as ‘access forbidden’ or ‘page not found’. We have never before experienced anything remotely to this extent during any of our previous researches.

Facts4EU.Org also made repeated attempts to contact scientists at the US Geological Survey in Washington DC, but no-one could be found. The assumption we have made is that documents have been withdrawn on national security grounds now that the United States is about to withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving the field open to Chinese and Russian companies.

It was only by sheer persistence that we have been able to access some hidden documents and to bring readers the limited information above.

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[ Sources: United States Geological Survey | US Bureau of Energy Resources | US Defense Department | Afghanistan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum | US Government Energy Resource Governance Initiative | New York Times | Cornish Lithium Ltd ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Tues 24 Aug 2021

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