Chinese officials in Afghanistan to explore lithium projects

KABUL (REUTERS) - Officials representing several Chinese companies are in Afghanistan to conduct on-site inspections of potential lithium projects, reported state-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times, adding that policy and security risks remain.

Representatives of five companies obtained special visas, arriving in Afghanistan in early November, via the China Arab Economic and Trade Promotion Committee in Kabul and Afghanistan's mining ministry, said the Global Times, citing "several Chinese businessmen in Afghanistan" without naming the companies.

Ganfeng Lithium, China's biggest lithium producer, told Reuters it was unaware of the trip.

Afghanistan is rich in resources ranging from copper, lead, zinc, gold, oil and gas, bauxite, coal, iron ore and rare earths.

It also has large reserves of lithium, a key component used for the batteries of electric vehicles.

Chinese state media and industry sources have said China could contribute to post-war reconstruction and develop resource projects in Taliban-led Afghanistan, though the necessary infrastructure will take years to build and security issues may intervene.

China's Jiangxi Copper, which took on a 30-year lease for Afghanistan's Mes Aynak copper mine with the Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC), said in September that it is monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and would push forward with development when possible.