Hardly anyone in the media or the public at large knew about it, but since a publication in Fortune 500
(Dec 25) and an article in the New York Times
(Dec 29) it's no longer a secret: China is preparing to mine a mountain of copper in Afghanistan with an estimated worth of 80 billion U.S. dollars - and it's happening in the middle of a war, in a war-torn country.
Near a tiny hamlet called Aynak
, about 100 km from the capital Kabul, a most valuable mountain is being prepared to be stripped of it's estimated 700 million tons of ore, the largest remaining source of high quality copper left on the planet.
Having bid more than any competitor, among which Canada, Russia, the US and Europe, a state-owned industrial conglomerate - China Metallurgical Group Corporation- has won the concession to mine this treasure. Roads are being built and a huge power station, just as all else that will be needed for the mining and the subsequent transport across Afghanistan's most difficult terrain.
While the US and it's NATO allies are fighting the Taliban and an assortment of insurgents and drug-lords, Chinese engineers and workers proceed in relative safety towards securing it's commercial interests in an attempt to feed it's growing economy.
While the US is pledging 16 billion to train the future Afghan army, China invests 3.5 billion in Afghanistan's infrastructure - which it needs to make the mine work and the transport feasible.
So what's the deal here, who were the real dealers? Is it true that the Ministry of Mines near the Kabul Presidential Palace is considered to be a stronghold of corruption? Who in Hamid Karzai's government, in NATO, in the US or elsewhere knew about it and let it happen?
Another very pointed question has been asked by Thomas P.M. Barnett at Esquire magazine
, and I quote:
... how many deaths in Afghanistan for the People's Liberation Army? Zero. Will China step in to protect the largest single foreign investment in Afghanistan's history? You bet — but only after fighting the Taliban to the very last American soldier it could muster.