China’s State-Owned MCC to Operationalize Juzzak Airstrip in Balochistan, Pakistan

On August 31, 2021, MCC Resources Devel­op­ment Lim­it­ed (MRDL), a sub­sidiary of China’s state-owned Met­al­lur­gi­cal Cor­po­ra­tion of Chi­na (MCC), received a license from Pakistan’s Civ­il Avi­a­tion Author­i­ty (CAA) to oper­a­tional­ize the Juz­zak Airstrip in Balochis­tan, Pak­istan.  The airstrip was report­ed­ly upgrad­ed to prep it for oper­a­tions ear­li­er this year.

Orig­i­nal­ly built in the 1980s and licensed by the CAA in 1996, the Juz­zak Airstrip was intend­ed to trans­port work­ers to and from the province to con­struct the Sain­dak cop­per and gold mines.  MRDL extend­ed its agree­ment to devel­op these mines for anoth­er 15 years in July 2020, pledg­ing to invest $45 mil­lion in the project. 

The renewed use of the Juz­zak Airstrip may have some rela­tion­ship to the recent attacks against Chi­nese nation­als in Pak­istan.  On August 20, a sui­cide bomber affil­i­at­ed with the Balochis­tan Lib­er­a­tion Army attacked Chi­nese nation­als trav­el­ing to the Gwadar port, killing two chil­dren and an engi­neer.  The upgrad­ed airstrip may be used to mit­i­gate this type of risk to the safe­ty of work­ers in the Sain­dak mines.

The Juz­zak Airstrip could also play a role in China’s Belt and Road ambi­tions in the region; name­ly, its inter­est in extend­ing the Chi­na-Pak­istan Eco­nom­ic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) to Afghanistan, where the same com­pa­ny, MCCsigned a con­tract in 2008 for the rights to the Mes Aynak Cop­per Mine.

Sim­i­lar to oth­er Chi­nese infra­struc­ture projects in the coun­try, how­ev­er, the project has yet to begin oper­a­tions due to safe­ty and secu­ri­ty issues.  With the recent U.S. with­draw­al from the coun­try, Chi­na has expressed hope that it can devel­op a rela­tion­ship with the Tal­iban, enabling it to move for­ward with big projects like the Aynak mine.