Mineral Revenue-Sharing as Peace Dividend: Incentivizing Stakeholders to Support Peace and Stability in Afghanistan

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 2021

By Priscilla A. Tacujan

Mineral Map of Afghanistan. Source: USGS

Various players have raised the prospect over the years of Afghanistan developing its mineral wealth as a means to stabilize the country, but nobody believes that it could achieve enough security to prevent attacks on infrastructure and mining operations.  However, it is possible that Afghanistan might be able to broker peace and reconciliation through a mineral revenue-sharing scheme[1] that directly distributes mining dividends and profits to the general population as well as extract concessions from the Taliban — an approach that has helped mitigate conflict in some other war-torn areas where revenue-sharing has been part of their peace accords.[2]  A trickle-down incentive structure could incentivize the Afghan people and militant groups to pursue peace and reconciliation if they become vested stakeholders and direct beneficiaries of their country’s natural resources.  While security conditions in Afghanistan’s extractive industries remain a challenge, a review of successful revenue-sharing practices in other countries suggests that a similar practice in Afghanistan may yield long-term gains.

Background: Afghan Minerals and Stakeholders

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), commissioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) to study Afghanistan’s extractive industry, has estimated that Afghanistan’s mineral and hydrocarbon deposits could be worth more than $1 trillion, with $908 billion in mineral resources and more than $200 billion in hydrocarbon deposits,[3] while the Afghan government has a more optimistic estimate, at $3 trillion.[4]  The U.S. Geological Survey has also indicated that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth minerals such as lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium deposits as large as those found in Bolivia, known for owning the world’s largest lithium reserves[5],[6]  Several assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and international organizations have concluded that these resources have the potential to contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s economy. Continue reading

Greenpeace Working to Close Rare Earth Processing Facility in Malaysia: the World’s Only Major REE Processing Facility in Competition with China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 10, October 2019

By Michael K. Cohen

Partial screenshot from the Greenpeace website, taken on 10/3/2019, detailing Greenpeace’s leading role in the ‘Stop Lynas’ campaign. Source: Greenpeace.

Rare earth – the colorful metals derived from 17 extraordinarily hard-to-mine chemical elements – are a little-known part of all of our lives. They are crucial elements of mobile phones, flat screen televisions and more than 200 other consumer electronic devices that we use every day.

But these exotic elements are needed for more than just phones and televisions. Their lightweight properties, and unique magnetic attributes, are indispensable to military assets that use sonar, radar or guidance systems, lasers, electronic displays, and myriad other mechanisms.

The vast majority of rare earths that countries need to protect themselves are produced by one country: The People’s Republic of China. And it does not appear that the situation will change in the near future. China has in recent years worked to monopolize the production of these elements as a strategic resource.

China has made rare earths available to countries around the world that need them, but that could abruptly change. Chinese state-controlled media has warned that sales of rare earths to the United States could be restricted as part of a new front in the ongoing trade war. Continue reading

Arctic Enterprise: The China Dream Goes North

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 9, September 2019

By Jonathan Hall

Arctic Ocean, ship on Barents Sea. Getty.

Until recent years, harsh weather and unmanageable navigation routes have precluded all but the most determined crews from venturing through the Arctic. As climate change continues to take effect, however, warming temperatures are opening up the region to new opportunities. In 2017, for example, merchant ships were able to pass through a shipping lane, known as the Northern Sea Route (NSR), for the first time without icebreaker escort.

The NSR has since been discussed as a logistical windfall that will revolutionize the world of international shipping. The often-cited reasoning is the potential 5,000 mi (8,000 km), or 10-15 days saved in transit, as compared to more traditionally used routes such as the Strait of Malacca, or the Suez Canal. While the NSR is only open three months per year, climatologists predict it will be traversable for 9 months out of the year by 2030, and completely ice free within the next two decades. As these changes are coming into effect, no state seems to understand the geopolitical advantage a strong presence in the Arctic will bring more so than the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Continue reading

Alleged Corruption in Mongolia’s Resource Extraction Sector

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2018 

By Indra Tsatsral

Dump trucks operate in an open pit at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, jointly owned by Rio Tinto Group’s Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. unit and state-owned Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC, in Khanbogd, the South Gobi desert, Mongolia, on Saturday, July 23, 2016. Mongolia exported 817,000 tons of copper concentrate in the first half of the year compared with 663,800 tons a year earlier, an increase of 23.1 percent. Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

The year is 2008 and Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, still resembles a gritty Soviet satellite state with its deteriorating apartment blocks and a statue of Lenin standing bold. Fast-forward a mere four years later and the apartment blocks have deteriorated further while a dazzling 25-story hotel overlooks the shadow of the recently removed statue. Today, with a plethora of Western companies ranging from luxury brands such as Rolex to the familiar Pizza Hut sprouting all over the city, you will be forgiven for mistaking Ulaanbaatar as one of the Four Asian Tigers. Unlike the Four Asian Tigers, which flourished predominately through industrialisation, however, Mongolia’s rapid ‘development’ is mainly attributed to the country’s colossal mineral wealth.

Continue reading

Nationalism, Pastoral Nomadism, and Political Risk to Natural Resource Investments in Mongolia: Case Studies of the Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (Chalco) and Rio Tinto

Mongolia - Oyu Tolgoi - The processing conveyor under construction is seen at the Oyu Tolgoi mine

02 Nov 2011, Mongolia — The processing conveyor under construction is seen at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia. Oyu Tolgoi, also known as Turquoise Hill is a combined open pit and underground mega mine project in Khanbogd in the south Gobi Desert. The site was discovered in 2001 and is being developed as a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines, Rio Tinto and the Government of Mongolia. The mine is scheduled to begin production in July 2012. The Oyu Tolgoi mining project is the largest financial undertaking in Mongolia’s history and is expected upon completion to account for more than 30% of the country’s gross domestic product. Copper production is expected to reach 450,000 tonnes annually and Gold production is estimated to reach 650,000 ounces per year. —(Copyright Kieran Doherty/In Pictures/Corbis / APImages)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 6, June 2014.

By Jamian Ronca Spadavecchia [1]

Mongolia stands at a critical juncture between the rewards of natural resource development and the challenges of modernization. On the one hand, it offers abundant opportunities in the natural resources sector and is located near growing and resource-starved industrial nations of East Asia. At the same time, the presence of autocratic neighbors impose international instability on this democratic and market-oriented economy.

This article considers two underanalyzed political risks that are necessary for understanding the future of the Mongolian economy: nationalism and pastoral nomadism. In doing so, it proffers an improved analytical framework for resource investors to better assess and mitigate their Mongolia risk.

Finally, the analysis uses selected case studies to demonstrate how nationalism and pastoral nomadism might impact natural resource investment. For nationalism, a study of the proposed acquisition of SouthGobi Resources (SouthGobi) by the Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (Chalco) is offered. The Chalco study is emblematic of the link between nationalism and two dominant trends in Mongolia: resource nationalism and increasing geopolitical risk in the natural resources sector. The section also looks at how pastoral nomadism poses a risk to Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia’s premier copper and gold mining project, by examining a dispute between Rio Tinto and indigenous communities of Gobi herders that threatened Oyu Tolgoi’s project financing. Continue reading