The Friday Report: August 27, 2021

Quick wrap up of a few hot topic newsworthy stories in the supply chain logistics industry

Chinese Rare Earth Mineral Bet Relies on Taliban



Much has changed in the past twenty years since the United States invaded Afghanistan.  The world was a much less sophisticated place, in terms of technology.  In 2001, there were no iPhones or Android smartphones, and many electronic devices and vehicles were not dependent on high-capacity batteries or computer chips.

Ironically, one of the least technologically sophisticated countries is literally positioned on top of one of the world’s largest lithium reserves, valued at over $1 trillion.  Extracting lithium, however, involves notoriously destructive mining techniques.  The demand for lithium, essential for electric vehicles, is anticipated to more than double by 2024.  Two of the top five largest lithium mining companies in the world are Chinese, one of which, Tianqi Lithium is believed to have controlled up to 46 percent of global production in 2018.

China hopes to provide Afghanistan with financial backing and the political impartiality it needs in return for opportunities involving industry building and infrastructure, as well as access to untapped valuable mineral deposits.  The Taliban has already been eager for positive international relations, especially with China which finds Afghanistan to have both strategic and economic value.  The Chinese are eager to invest in the country’s mineral industry and can transport products to Pakistan, a country in which they have invested over $60 billion in infrastructure.

In the mid-2000s Chinese investors won a bid to mine copper in an area near Kabul.  Lack of infrastructure, security concerns and other factors resulted in a lack of output and return on their investment.  Only time will tell if the Afghan economy and new government will be successful, but timing is critical as the worldwide interest in electric vehicles is fueling a need for lithium and other rare minerals.

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Vietnam Lockdown Impacts Supply Chains


Vietnam is currently enforcing strict lockdown conditions because of the rise of COVID-19 and is using its military to ensure that its civilians remain at home.  In Vietnamese factories, workers are working but must sleep onsite.  Truck drivers and other supply chain workers are also affected, and ocean freight supply chains have been experiencing serious delays.

Because there is such a severe labor shortage of stevedores, truck drivers and forklift operators, Tan Cang Cat Lai Port is at 100 percent capacity. Vietnam’s southern provinces have been the most effected.  Cargo with North American destinations is backlogged five to seven days and European cargo is being delayed one to three days.

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UPS Drones Deliver COVID-19 Vaccines


UPS is actively using Matternet M2 drones with special cargo boxes outfitted to maintain COVID-19 vaccines at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius during transport.  Vaccines inside the package are monitored while in transit and are kept cold using customized PCM Gel solution.

The autonomous drones produce zero operational emissions.  COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered from Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem to family practice centers within the health system within a mile drive by car.

UPS has conducted multiple test flights with COVID-19 vaccines for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.  This has helped to determine the feasibility of transporting other items which require cold chain conditions and monitoring, including lab samples

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