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Foreign powers eyeing $3 trillion Afghan resource spoils

While peace in Afghanistan still looks to be a utopian dream, AFP reports that developing nations like China and India are eager to make resource deals in the troubled country even before the guns fall silent:

While an end to the fighting seems remote for now, mining lots are being quickly parcelled out among Afghanistan’s resource-hungry neighbours, potentially sparking a new “Great Game” for control of its battle-worn ground.

According to mining ministry documents seen by AFP, Afghanistan is planning to sell extraction rights for up to five mines every year until the departure of the last foreign combat troops in 2014 — a rattling pace, say experts.

According to AFP, future deals could include the huge Anyak copper mine south of Kabul, to which China won extraction rights four years ago; the 2-billion tonne Hajigak iron ore mine being bid on by India and Iran; and rail links that would open up Afghan trade with its neighbours.

By some calculations Afghanistan’s resource sector could be worth $3 trillion.

The National Post reported in September that Indian firms are bidding billions for a contract to mine iron ore in a central district of Afghanistan:

“A consortium led by the state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) could invest up to US$6 billion (Dh22bn) in the mine, railroads and a steel plant in a race with China to lock in raw materials for two of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”

Also that month, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) won a bid for an oil field in northern Afghanistan in the first contract for international oil production signed by the Afghan government for several decades, Reuters reported. 

While concerns over security and the strong possibility that minesites could become a terrorism target have dissuaded mega-miners like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton from investing in Afghanistan, Indian and Chinese companies have shown strong interest in the war-ravaged country.