War-ravaged Afghanistan expects to call bids for exploration of its mineral deposits valued at nearly $1 trillion (Rs 46.3 trillion) by end-September, said A. Munir Khan, commercial counsellor at the Afghanistan embassy in Delhi.
Analysts expect competition between Indian and Chinese firms for these deposits. “We expect the bids in the last week, however no firm date has been fixed. It will be done in phases. We expect a lot of international companies to bid and they may even form consortiums. The international bidders will be invited to have a look,” said Khan.
The New York Times had recently reported about US discovering nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. The deposits contain iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. Several commentators have expressed their doubts over the find and its timing—just when the US needed to show some reason for its continued presence in the Central Asian nation.
“The Chinese firms in general have fared better than Indian companies in the mining sector mergers and acquisitions, and they have made large investments in Australia and Africa. Afghanistan may, however, be a different case and Indian companies, particularly the government-owned ones, may be nudged to invest for diplomatic and strategic reasons,” said Dipesh Dipu, an expert on the mining sector.
India has invested $1.3 billion to rebuild Afghanistan and views the country as key to its strategic interests, not least because it is situated at the crossroads between South Asia and energy-rich Central Asia. As part of its attempt to increase its influence in the region, India has been assisting Afghanistan in rebuilding infrastructure, in turn irking Pakistan.
Afghanistan’s second parliamentary election after the fall of Taliban is scheduled to be held on 18 September.