Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals
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Updated 22 August 2021

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals
  • Afghanistan is also home to rare earths that are used in the clean energy sector

PARIS: The Taliban now hold the keys to an untouched trillion-dollar trove of minerals including some that could power the world’s transition to renewable energies, but Afghanistan has long struggled to tap its vast deposits. 

The Taliban are already in a financial bind since they returned to power 20 years after their ouster, as major aid donors halted their support for Afghanistan. Endless wars and poor infrastructure have prevented the country from getting its hands on the metals that could brighten its economic fortunes. The resources include bauxite, copper, iron ore, lithium and rare earths, according to a January report by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Copper, which is needed to make power cables, became a hot commodity this year as prices soared to more than $10,000 per ton. Lithium is a crucial element to make electric car batteries, solar panels and wind farms. World demand for lithium is expected to grow by over 40 times by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. And Afghanistan “sits on a huge reserve of lithium that has not been tapped to this day,” said Guillaume Pitron, author of the book “The Rare Metals War.”

Afghanistan is also home to rare earths that are used in the clean energy sector: Neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. The country’s untapped mineral riches have been estimated at $1 trillion by the USGS, though Afghan officials have put it three times as high.

Afghanistan has done better digging for precious stones such as emeralds and rubies as well as semi-precious tourmaline and lapis lazuli, but the business is plagued with illegal smuggling to Pakistan. The country also mines for talc, marble, coal and iron. While the Taliban’s takeover may deter foreign investors, one country that appears willing to do business with them is China.

The world’s second-biggest economy has said it was ready to have “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan after the Taliban entered Kabul. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp. won rights in 2007 to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit for 30 years and extract 11.5 million tons of the commodity.

The project to tap the world’s second-largest unexploited copper deposit has yet to start operations “due to safety issues,” according to Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times. 

But Global Times cited a source at the group as saying that it would “consider reopening it after the situation is stabilized, and international recognition — including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime — takes place."

While Chinese leaders are “not enthusiastic” about the Taliban takeover, “they will not allow principle to stand in the way of pragmatism,” Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank, said in a blog. “Beijing's lack of development at its major investment in the Mes Aynak copper mine demonstrates its willingness to exercise patience in pursuit of return on investment,” he wrote.


Sport is a key part of climate action, says Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud

Sport is a key part of climate action, says Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud
Updated 18 sec ago

Sport is a key part of climate action, says Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud

Sport is a key part of climate action, says Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud

RIYADH: Sport needs to be recognised as a key weapon in the fight against climate change, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States declared at the Saudi Green Initiative on Saturday.

Speaking in Riyadh, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud said implementing the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and supporting its signatories will promote sustainability.

“The principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change can educate, inform and inspire our conduct, and our behaviour, and it can make it clear that sports will help lead this battle,” she said, adding: “And as a member of the Saudi Olympic family and also representing the International Olympic Committee. I'm proud that the sporting world has this opportunity to confront the climate crisis.”

The ambassador went on to argue that climate change can only be tackled if millions of young people around the world are mobilized to take care not just of themselves, but the environment around them.

 “And that's what sports has always done, and at no time has that leadership been more important than now as we look to protect the future generations and protect our planet,” she said.  

The Kingdom is signing the sports framework with the United Nations.

Princess Reema believes the world can be impacted by sports, saying: “Sports are a reflection of what we value: excellence, friendship, respect. It can be transforming and sports can educate and inform.”

“When I think of sports. I think of a community. I think of people striving, reaching for long sought dreams and sports will always bring us together. It will always challenge us to be our best,” she added.


SGI: Youth will play a big role in Saudi Arabia's environmental agenda

SGI: Youth will play a big role in Saudi Arabia's environmental agenda
Updated 24 min 59 sec ago

SGI: Youth will play a big role in Saudi Arabia's environmental agenda

SGI: Youth will play a big role in Saudi Arabia's environmental agenda
  • "It is your generation that must make us be accountable," says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

DUBAI/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is in full gear to host the upcoming Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh — a much awaited event that will set out the Kingdom’s ambitious environmental agenda. 

But the event is not only going to cover Saudi efforts to fight climate change, but also rally the wider Middle East region to comply with international targets, including limiting global warming to below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. 

Experts all over the world have emphasized the role of collaboration to achieve this, with Saudi Arabia demonstrating it with its remarkable hosting of the G20 summit last year — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The efforts are not only coming from governments though — one of the most reported environmental campaigns is coming from young people, which the UN said is just logical given they are the inheritors of the Earth.

“My generation has largely failed until now to preserve both justice in the world and to preserve the planet. It is your generation that must make us be accountable to make sure that we don't betray the future of humankind,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres previously said in a statement. 

This will be reflected in the upcoming SGI, where a parallel event that focuses on youth participation in the regional and global environmental agenda will be held.

The Youth Green Summit, happening on October 24, is “a platform for environmental literacy, advocacy, and policy making,” according to the SGI website. 

It will feature interactive workshops and collaborative climate policy activities, as well as panels with leading youth activists. 

Saudi Arabia has a massive young population — almost 51 percent of the Kingdom is below 25 years old, and the government has been empowering them to contribute to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” to improve the quality of life in the Kingdom. 

A Saudi-based founder of a local environmental initiative said including the youth in discussions about the environment is “what will provide effective results.”

“The future of national development in the Kingdom hinges on empowering its youthful majority,” Eshraq Al-Haddad told Arab News.

She added: “The Kingdom has already made tremendous efforts to empower youth through programs and projects of national transformation initiatives, increasing their participation in society and the labor market.”

Al-Haddad said many young Saudis have shown an increasing interest in environmental sustainability, and many are championing this cause through creating businesses or promoting environmental awareness through community activities or campaigns.

“In a recent development, Saudi youth have been profoundly involved in the lead up to the Saudi G20 Summit. Hence, youth have been the major beneficiaries of the chance for open dialogue and inclusive policy making,” she said.

The Saudi youth is “yearning for an active role to make a positive impact towards the environment,” Al-Hadded said, adding the “Saudi Green Initiative is a great step.”

A 23-year-old Saudi-based diver, Joud Hamshari, said she is “thrilled” for the upcoming Youth Green Summit.

“We scuba dive to explore the underwater and enjoy the scenery of marine life. As divers, it is our responsibility to preserve the aquatic environment, and it is good to have the support of SGI to sustain the effort we do as scuba divers,” she said.

Other divers like Hamshari have been involved in different activities to create awareness in their own communities, including annual clean-up drives. 

Fifteen-year-old Saudi Nour Binmahfouz said: “As divers, it is our obligation to preserve the aquatic environment and educate those who have neglected their duties. With the support of the Saudi Green initiative, us divers will be able to continue with our efforts in spreading awareness as pollution in the ocean has skyrocketed.”

The SGI Forum will take place on October 23, followed by the Youth Green Summit on the next day.

 


Prince Charles: Saudi Arabia has 'critical role' in fighting climate change

Prince Charles: Saudi Arabia has 'critical role' in fighting climate change
Updated 23 October 2021

Prince Charles: Saudi Arabia has 'critical role' in fighting climate change

Prince Charles: Saudi Arabia has 'critical role' in fighting climate change

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has a "critically important" role in diversifying the world's energy mix and tackling climate change, the UK's Prince Charles has insisted.

In a video played at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum in Riyadh, the Prince of Wales said the work in the Middle East to tackle climate change is providing hope that the world can experience a green recovery.

The Prince warned there is a “dangerously narrow window of opportunity” for nations to act, adding: “But, there is hope, and we are already seeing real progress — something the Saudi Green initiative and Middle East Green Initiative aim to accelerate.

"As I’ve been trying to stress for many years, the region has huge potential for renewable energy including solar power, wind, green hydrogen and carbon capture.

"These industries can drive economic growth and increase green job opportunities.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Kingdom's global leadership in energy transition is critically important.

"I can only say that it is enormously encouraging to see the commitment to diversifying its emergency mix, recognizing the cascading economic and social environment benefits that renewable energy provides.

"Practical projects on the ground help bring to life the transformative potential of the green economy.

“Bearing in mind that the region is estimated to lose 13 billion dollars to dust storms every year, there is no doubt that the regional initiative to plant billions of trees would have a truly transformative effect for the benefit of generations to come.”


Saudi Arabia to use 50m hectares of land for massive tree planting target

Saudi Arabia to use 50m hectares of land for massive tree planting target
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia to use 50m hectares of land for massive tree planting target

Saudi Arabia to use 50m hectares of land for massive tree planting target

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is going to use 50 million hectares of land to plant 10 billion trees under the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), the Kingdom’s environment minister said on Saturday.

Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadley said the Kingdom will be held accountable for its ambitious tree planting project, as it aims to “provide a green cover to reduce the negative impact of climate change”.

The minister, who was speaking at the SGI Forum in Riyadh, also reiterated the Saudi Crown Prince’s commitment to the Kingdom’s environmental objectives. 

He said the Crown Prince has increased the percentage of the Kingdom’s protected land from 16 percent to 20 percent. 


United Nations praises Saudi Arabia's 'bold and courageous' climate change plans revealed at SGI 2021

United Nations praises Saudi Arabia's 'bold and courageous' climate change plans revealed at SGI 2021
Updated 23 October 2021

United Nations praises Saudi Arabia's 'bold and courageous' climate change plans revealed at SGI 2021

United Nations praises Saudi Arabia's 'bold and courageous' climate change plans revealed at SGI 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN today, according to the country's Energy Minister.

INDCs are instruments set out under the Paris Agreement that allow the UN to assess how the world is tackling climate change.

Addressing the Saudi Green Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman revealed the details had been sent via email.

Reacting to the annoucement, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: "This is certainly the kind of leadership that the world needs precisely at this time and I want to commend His Royal Highness, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this very bold and courageous decisions that send a powerful signal just a few days before we start the conference in Glasgow. 

She added: “This is what we need; we need countries to come to cope with great decisions, bold decisions with high level of ambition — we need to have the clarity of these pathways of the deadlines that we established so I wholeheartedly commend and express my gratitude for a very important oil producing country is really a game changing, history changing decision."