Jordan plans exploratory excavations in Dana nature reserve

Jordan pushes forward with plans for copper excavation at Dana nature reserve
3 min read
07 December, 2021
The Jordanian government will extract exploratory samples of copper from the Dana nature reserve as part of a feasibility study for widescale copper mining, prompting an outcry from local environmentalists
Over a third of the 292 square kilometre biosphere is slated for mining under the current plan, prompting widespread condemnation from environmental activists [Getty]

The Jordanian government will extract exploratory samples of copper from the Dana nature reserve as part of a feasibility study for widescale copper mining, local media reported on Monday.

"Excavations will be carried out by a private company under the supervision of the Royal Society for the Conversation of Nature (RSCN), away from areas with great biodiversity," according to the Jordanian daily, Al-Ghad.

 The Jordanian government has not yet confirmed this and the ministry of environment did not respond to a request for comment.

In August, the Jordanian ministry of energy and mineral resources announced that it would be redrawing the boundaries of the Dana nature reserve to accommodate copper mining in the area.

Previously, the ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Manaseer Group to carry out the copper extraction.

Over a third of the 292 square kilometre biosphere is slated for mining.  

The announcement prompted an outcry from local environmentalists, who said that mining could put the country's largest nature reserve's natural and archaeological resources at risk. The Dana biosphere, located in the country's arid south, is a rich source of biodiversity in the region and hosts some endangered species.

"The reserve has 800 types of plants, hundreds of fauna and flora. It is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in Jordan and has global significance. This decision [to mine in Dana] will jeopardise the importance of conservation in the area and will harm Jordan as well," Yehya Khaled, the former director general of the RSCN, told The New Arab at the end of August.

The reserve also is a popular attraction for ecotourism and employs dozens of locals who work as guides or in local handicrafts. The Feynan ecolodge, an ecotourism destination which sits deep in the reserve, uses its profits to fund sustainability initiatives and promote the archaeological history of the area.

The boundaries of the Dana Biosphere would be redrawn to allow for mining to take place, in an area determined by the ministry of environment. Alternative land would then be apportioned to replace the area cordoned off for copper extraction.

The Jordanian ministry of energy has responded to criticism by saying exploration took place prior to the designation of the area as a nature reserve.

The ministry also said that the mining project would create some 3,500 indirect and direct jobs, in addition to the revenue from the 45 million tonnes of copper estimated to be stored in the reserve.

It has promised to balance between conservation and economic concerns in the area, but Khaled said that even the exploratory missions completed so far could have left lasting damage on the reserve.

"The area that has been investigated, there has been drilling, making damage and opening roads. The area is not only important for ecology, but also for archaeological sites. We found out Khirbet Nahas [ancient Roman copper mines], had been affected by their activities. Unfortunately, it is not easy to rehabilitate," Khaled said.

The ministry of environment has prepared a report on how to best move forward with the copper extraction project, but is awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers before it can be sent ahead to the prime minister.