The conquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban obviously has severe consequences for the local population. But there are also possible consequences for your next phone, laptop and car.
A contribution from Marcel Hagens
Although 70% of the land is yet unsought, Afghanistan has presumably huge amounts of natural resources, incl. one of the biggest deposits of Lithium worldwide. The exploration has never been started on an industrial scale yet due to a missing infrastructure and the known turmoil of the last decades.
Lithium is used, among other things, for the batteries of electric cars, laptops and smartphones. Afghanistan also has proven rich natural reserves of copper, cobalt and rare earth metals. Those metals are essential for a transition to renewable energy that The EU and US want to make.
Lithium trade with the Taliban?
The Taliban will now have to find a way to market this lithium in order to find an economic basis for their coup. As long as there are safer and more reliable sources elsewhere, the use of Afghan minerals will probably remain low. However, China and Russia seem willing to build a diplomatic relationship with the Taliban, which may include some form of economic cooperation.
China is already well established in mining the vast Afghan natural resources with as the most noticeable fact their right to develop the world’s largest copper reserve located in the Afghan province of Logar with an estimated value of US $88 billion.
Demand times seven
According to research it is expected that the demand for lithium will increase by a factor of seven. And although a lot of lithium can be recycled, a lot of material will also be needed to make batteries. After all, a battery in an average EV already contains 8 kilograms of this material.
Some market analysts even predict an "acute" shortage of lithium as of 2022. That shortage could derail most European, Japanese and US ambitions to produce only all-electric cars by the end of this decade. The Chinese EV market today already has more than 30 serious players and VW/Audi and Volvo amongst others largely depend on Chinese partnerships for the production of their EV models.
Unless we see significant and immediate investment in large, commercially viable lithium supplies, these predicted shortages will most likely extend to the end of the decade. Part of the problem is that while the value of lithium has risen in recent years, that rise has not yet been enough to trigger major investment in new mining operations.
And therein lies the opportunity for the Taliban if it does manage to find the right investors.
Strategic or economic dependence?
What would happen when China would gain a controlling interest over the world’s lithium supply?
What would happen if Taliban decides to restrict access to the rear earth minerals for a while?
How would this affect the US and EU economy and way of life? What strategic steps can and should be taken? Will Afghanistan become the next Saudi Arabia, controlling the access to a commodity in high demand by the west? Will the EU and US (be forced to) tolerate and support yet another regime based on sharia laws?
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