The dramatic fall of Afghanistan has left returning Taliban militants in charge of an estimated $1 trillion worth of rare earth mineral deposits, raising the prospect China may seek to work with the Taliban to boost its mining activity there.

In 2010, US military officials and geologists revealed that the conflict-riven country was sitting on vast resources of iron, copper, gold, rare earths and, in particular, coveted supplies of lithium – a scarce but vital component of electric vehicle battery production.

The nation had the potential to become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a Pentagon memo at the time said.

The Taliban takeover has now raised fresh questions about how this untapped wealth will be managed and presents a new dilemma of whether to trade with a regime known for human rights abuses in order to supply green technologies.

But China is wasting no time. Just a day after the militants entered Kabul, Beijing said it was ready for “friendly and cooperative” relations with the Taliban.

A Chinese consortium, including the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp, already has a 30-year contract to extract, smelt and process material at Mes Aynak, the world’s second-largest copper mine.

This week, state media said work might resume after being halted over security concerns.