A lost frontier or a new gateway to global climate action? The Afghan leadership and the revival of Afghanistan’s mineral sector

Chaudhuri, Sriroop and Roy, Mimi (2024) A lost frontier or a new gateway to global climate action? The Afghan leadership and the revival of Afghanistan’s mineral sector. India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs. ISSN 0974-9284 | 0975-2684 (In Press)

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Is Afghanistan a lost frontier? A superficial look might conform to this notion, given the continued state of unrest and instability, rampant hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy and unemployment. In this reflective discourse, however, we highlight a brighter (largely overlooked) aspect: her mineral reserves, estimated at nearly USD 1 trillion, including some of the world’s richest lithium and rare earth elements (REEs), with high market value and critical for global climate combat policymaking (decarbonisation of infrastructure and attaining the net-zero target). By the same token, here, we offer a bird’s-eye view of the Afghan mineral wealth, with special emphasis on lithium and REE, which, if rightly harnessed, could be an engine of economic growth and national development. In its present state of operations, however, that future seems a distant myth as the Afghan mining/mineral sector is undermined by a web of interlocking systemic barriers, including (a) a totalitarian regime, (b) institutional bottlenecks, (c) a lack of social integration (human rights violation and neoliberal outlook) and (d) a lack of foreign investments. To that end, we reflect on the world experience of nations where mineral resources have become engines of economic growth and national development, which may inspire the present Afghan leadership. Rejuvenating the mining/mineral sector may help the leadership simultaneously advance towards multiple targets: (a) stabilising the economy, (b) meeting multiple UN Sustainable Goals, (c) helping mobilising nation- and peace-building efforts and (d) contributing to global climate action. Collectively, these may help redeem the lost reputation in the eyes of the international community and get rid of the economic sanctions. Here, we offer a vision to the present Afghan leadership to rejuvenate the mineral sector: (a) an enabling business environment (increased ease of business and security), (b) a unified water-power supply framework (hydropower development), (c) a participatory ecosystem (an integrated social-ecological-technological framework) and (d) restricting illicit mineral trade (enforcing rule of law and equity). To that end, we call for a data revolution to kickstart the systems’ thinking exercise (facilitating research, exploration and mineral processing)

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Afghan mineral reserves | Lithium and rare earth elements (REE) | Clean technology and climate change | Water and power security | Illegal mining and mineral trading | Data revolution
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Social Sciences (General)
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > International Relations
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Political Science
JGU School/Centre: Jindal School of Liberal Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Subhajit Bhattacharjee
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2024 14:49
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2024 14:49
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/09749284231225823
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/7327


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