The Chinese ambassador to Eritrea has announced the start of joint mining of copper, gold, zinc and silver. A long-standing project, which should bring in 11,8 billion dollars.
Baron Edmond James de Rothschild said: "When blood flows in the street, you have to invest in stone". And as the eyes of the world are averted from the simmering conflict in Tigray, China is taking the plunge, after years of negotiations with Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki. Since 2013 already, the Eritrean national mining company ENAMCO has been looking for investors for four vast mining fields.
In the end, it only took seven months for China to convince Asmara to create a joint venture (60-40%) which would take over all the mining sites. Copper, zinc, gold and silver, mined by the new Sino-Eritrean Asmara Mining Share Company (AMSC), which are expected to bring $692 million in net revenue to Eritrea every year for at least 17 years.
The four sites concerned by the extraction of ores would contain at least 380 tons of copper, 000 tons of zinc, 850 tons of gold and 000 tons of silver according to the specialist in Eritrea Matteo Palamidesse. According to him, the AMSC “starts its activity in very good conditions”. After extraction, the ores will be purified and crushed in Eritrea, then transported by sea to Chinese smelters.
China kicks Eritrea's 'masters of the world'
Palamidesse also explains that the region exploited by the mining company is one of the most geologically significant in the world. It notably contains the largest potassium deposit in the world, operated by an Australian company. The new project with China should give Beijing control of the open-pit copper mine with the best quality in the world, equivalent to more than 2% of the world's copper.
Also, Chinese investment in the “Asmara Project” eliminates competition from two of the largest investment funds in the world that were interested. Namely the Americans BlackRock and Vanguard – the same investment fund that controls all the pharmaceutical companies in the world, as well as Apple, WhatsApp, Youtube, Facebook and Amazon.
The project with China is of great economic importance for the President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki. Since the start of the Tigray war, Afwerki has been increasingly isolated, under a UN arms embargo and economic sanctions from the European Union (EU). Despite all this, and the accusations of war crimes in Ethiopia, Afwerki had every chance of reconciling with the West. The Eritrean president is, however, a very long-time Maoist.
Afwerki prepares his succession
However, in quick succession, Eritrea was the first African country to support Russia before the United Nations. Moscow has been the only supplier of weapons to Eritrea for more than two years. Then, Afwerki refused to meet the EU envoy for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber. According to Africa Intelligence, the latter is in the process of being replaced by Italian diplomat and lobbyist Gianluca Grippa. On another side, Eritrea accepts mediation from China's special envoy Xue Bing in Tigray ceasefire.
What align Eritrea totally against the West. Isaias Afwerki is now counting on China and Russia diplomatically, in the energy and infrastructure sectors, now in the mining sector. In power for 29 years, Afwerki would also be sick.
Opening Eritrea to Chinese companies will therefore guarantee an increase of more than 30% in GDP, just with the Asmara Project. But as Afwerki gradually withdraws from Tigray, while preparing his succession in Eritrea, he seems preoccupied with the legacy of his three decades in power.