Jordan pushes forward with mining plans in protected nature reserve

Jordan pushes forward with mining plans in protected nature reserve
Since August, the Dana nature reserve has been at the heart of a fierce battle between Jordanian environmentalists and authorities, who want to develop the country’s mining potential.
2 min read
12 June, 2022
The Dana biosphere reserve is one of Jordan's largest nature reserve. [Michele D'Amico]

A Jordanian investment group announced new investments in copper mining in the Dana nature reserve, months after the government made controversial plans to gut the reserve to facilitate mining exploration, local media reported on Thursday.

The announcement was made on Thursday by Ziad Al-Manaseer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Manaseer Group, to Jordan’s Al-Mamlaka TV. The group said it plans to invest 800 million USD for copper mining in Dana, and the same amount to build a new chemical fertilisers complex in the south of Jordan. The two projects are due to start in June 2023.

The move comes months after a controversial proposal by Jordanian authorities in August to gut out one third of Dana reserve in order to look for copper there, prompting outcry from local environmental activists. 

The Dana biosphere reserve, located in the country's arid south, is among Jordan’s largest reserves and is a rich source of biodiversity in the region. It hosts several globally endangered species and species of trees unique to the area. The reserve also is a popular attraction for ecotourism and employs dozens of locals who work as guides or in local handicrafts. 

Dana is also on the list of sites Jordan wishes to add to the global pool of UNESCO World Heritage sites, a possibility that would be greatly compromised if mining took place there. 

"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 Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN - the environmental nonprofit mandated to manage the reserve), told The New Arab at the end of August.

Weeks of mobilisation from environmental activists against the project eventually ended with a compromise: Jordanian authorities walked back on their intentions to redraw the reserve boundaries, while the RSCN agreed to let investors look for copper in areas of the reserves it had previously restricted access to.

According to the ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the mining project will 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. But the financial feasibility of the project has been contested by environmental activists, who recall that copper prices are extremely unstable.

Founded in 1999 by Ziad Al-Manaseer, the Jordan-based Al-Manaseer group employs over 10,000 staff, across 24 companies, and is active in the transportation, energy and construction sectors among others.