China to mine copper in Afghanistan

China is continuing its hunt for minerals in Australia and Africa to secure its future requirements. It is now developing a massive copper deposit in neighbouring war-torn Taliban region of Afghanistan, considered as the most dangerous place in the world.

In November 2007, the Karzai government in Afghanistan in collaboration with NATO forces auctioned the huge Aynak copper deposit under the US Agency for International Development (USAID) plan and arbitrarily awarded the mining rights to Chinese state enterprise, China Metallurgical Group, for $3.5 billion.

Part of the deal was to develop a coal mine located in the vicinity, which in turn could power a Chinese-built 400 MW power plant for the mine and its smelters, and to construct Afghanistan's first railway, which will link Western China through Tajikistan to the Aynak mine and then on to its long-time friend, Pakistan in its continuing bid to encircle India.

Other bidders for the copper deposit were Vancouver-based Hunter-Dickinson, which had made an approximate $2-billion bid, Phoenix-based Phelps Dodge, London-based Kazakhmys Consortium, and a subsidiary of Russia's Basic Element Group.

The 28 square kilometre Aynak copper field, which is said to hold the world's largest unexploited deposits of copper, lies 35 kilometres southeast of Kabul and according to unofficial sources, is estimated to hold approximately 240 million tons of copper ore while online geography journal GeoJournal has put a more conservative figure of over 11 million metric tons of recoverable copper, which can be recovered through surface mining.

The NATO forces, in conjunction with the Afghan government thought it would be too risky for a private enterprise to undertake the massive infrastructure project as well as develop the Aynak copper deposit, which is spread over a vast area of hostile Taliban territory.