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New Railroad Links Afghanistan to Iran

The corridor in its entirety, from Herat to Khwaf, will connect Iranian mineral plants to those of Afghanistan, while also connecting Afghan deposits to the international waters in the south of Iran
This will be Afghanistan’s first railroad link to Iran, and the country’s only link to the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.This will be Afghanistan’s first railroad link to Iran, and the country’s only link to the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
The route is of special importance to Iran, as the country is looking to use its expertise in the mining sector to exploit Afghan minerals

The construction of a 191km railroad which is to connect the Iranian city of Khwaf in the northeastern Khorasan Razavi Province to Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city is making rapid progress, as the first phase of the route has become operational and work on two others is the final stages.

Senior officials, including Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Abbas Akhoundi, CEO of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, Mohsen Pourseyyed Aqaie and governor-general of Khorasan Razavi Alireza Rashidian saw off the first train passing on the 14km route on Wednesday. This part spans Khwaf to the Iranian mine-rich city of Sangan.

The first section, which cost $7.35-million, will allow the concentrate and pellet production plants in Khwaf region to initially move up to 2.5 million tons of rail cargo to Iran’s southern ports, including the port of Bandar Abbas, Akhoundi was quoted by ISNA as saying during the inauguration ceremony.

“Figures show there are billions of tons deposits in the region, which is why the connectivity is of utmost importance,” the minister said.

New mineral explorations indicate that iron ore reserves in Sangan Mine alone stand at 1.2 billion tons, which makes it a “world-class” iron ore mine, according to the ranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization.

The mine has an annual capacity of 15 million tons of iron ore pellets and 17.5 million tons of concentrate annually.

Akhoundi said it would be illogical to transport this “wealth” through roadways and that railroads offer major benefits in terms of protection of the environment, safety and energy conservation.

Annually, eight million tons of minerals are produced in the region, which means further increase of rail transportation in the area is a priority.

The corridor in its entirety, from Herat to Khwaf, will connect Iranian mineral plants to those of Afghanistan, while also connecting Afghan deposits to the international waters in the south of Iran.

Iran has reportedly finished laying tracks on the second phase of the railroad, which is about 63-kilometers, beginning in Sangan and ending in the border city of Shamtigh.

The other two phases are in Afghan territory covering 114km from Shamtigh to Herat. The 62km  phase 3, connecting  Shamtigh to Ghurian, is being built by Iran.

Also on Wednesday, Iran started laying tracks on the third phase in a ceremony in Shamtigh. Akhoundi and other senior Iranian officials, along with the Afghan Transport Minister Muhamadullah Batash, Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani were present.

This will be Afghanistan’s first railroad link to Iran, and the country’s only link to the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Experts believe the route will make significant contribution to the growth and development of the war-ravaged neighboring state.

Upon completion, the Khwaf-Herat route will be used for transportation of both passengers and cargo. However, exploiting its cargo capabilities is a priority for both governments, according to Transport Ministry official Mohammad Reza Ahmadi.

The official predicted that the remaining phases of the railroad will become operational within nine months, with the capacity for moving 27 million tons of cargo a year.

  Mineral Wealth

The route is of special importance to Iran, as the country is looking to use its expertise in the mining sector to exploit Afghan minerals.

Back in March, Iran signed an agreement with Afghanistan on exploration and exploitation of mines and mineral exports.

According to Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Shah Saba Iran has “valuable experience” in the mining sector and Afghanistan aims to use that experience to develop its mines and mineral industries.

Iran prioritizes mines near its borders, such as the Hajigak Iron Ore Mine located in northwestern Afghanistan. It is the best known and largest iron ore deposit in that country.

Furthermore, IMIDRO, in cooperation with an Iranian private company, is set to establish a cement factory in Afghanistan with Afghan investment.

Afghanistan is home to over 1,400 mineral sites containing copper, gold, iron ore, lead, sulfur, zinc and high-quality gemstones such as emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. It holds $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Hajigak Iron Ore Mine is estimated to hold nearly 2 million tons of approximately 62% pure iron ore, with 16 ore bodies extending for up to 3 kilometers. The mine is amenable to open pitting, with the added bonus provided by the nearby Shabashak Coal Mine for the establishment of an integrated iron and steel plant.

Afghanistan is also home to one of the world’s largest copper reserves. Mes Aynak Copper Mine–located in Logar Province–is the world’s second largest copper reserve. Afghanistan’s  Mining Ministry estimates the mine holds 6 million tons of copper. The mine is reportedly worth several billion dollars.

 

Financialtribune.com