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, MCC, signed 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.