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Copper exploration study to determine mining potential in Dana Reserve

By Hana Namrouqa - Apr 12,2018 - Last updated at Apr 12,2018

Dana Biosphere Reserve was established and managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature since 1989 (Photo by Camille Dupire)

AMMAN — Results of an ongoing exploration programme of copper and associated minerals in Dana Biosphere Reserve will determine whether mining in the globally recognised nature sanctuary will be allowed, according to a conservationist.

 Mining copper in Dana reserve has been a longstanding issue rejected by environmentalists who claim that mining activities will harm the unique ecosystems of the reserve, established and managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) since 1989.

 RSCN Director General Yehya Khaled said that the society has always refused mining of copper or any other minerals in Dana reserve, noting that mining activities in a reserve should be completely or almost inexistent.

Ahmad Husami, media and communication manager at Manaseer Group, the local energy and mining giant responsible for the exploration stressed that the company is in the process of exploring the project's feasibility, underlining that it places environment protection among its main priorities.

“We are coordinating with the Ministry of Environment and the RSCN at every step to avoid affecting Dana reserve's nature, and we are taking every precautionary measure to this end," he said. 

Khaled said that the RSCN, the custodian on Jordan’s nature, decided to allow the exploration programme because the Kingdom is witnessing an economic crisis.

 “Some policy makers are strongly convinced that the reserve’s western part holds commercial amounts of copper and they eye the RSCN as the villain stopping Jordan from tapping [its natural resources],” Khaled told The Jordan Times.

 Spread over 300 square kilometres, the reserve is located in Tafileh Governorate, 180km southwest of the capital. Dana is Jordan’s largest and most diverse nature reserve with 833 types of vegetation constituting 50 per cent of the total flora of the country.

 The nature reserve is globally important for being the southernmost remaining forest community of pencil pine and for containing three rare plants that exist only in Dana and are named after the area: Silene danansis, Micromeria danaensis and Rubia danaeansis.

 Dana is also an important bird-watching site as it is home to 216 kinds of birds, many of which are globally threatened, and 38 mammals.

 Manaseer Group announced in March that it had started exploration for copper and associated minerals in Dana reserve, earmarking $600 million for the two-year project that will cover over 106sq.km.

 A subsidy of the group, the Jordanian Integrated Company, will handle the project, the company said, indicating that the commencement of the plan came two years after Manaseer Group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, giving the company the licence to carry out copper mining in the reserve. 

“We have reached a deal under which Manaseer does a detailed feasibility study on how much copper is there and if the amounts are really worth billions as geologists and officials claim,” Khaled said.

 If the amounts prove insufficient, the project will be stopped by the company but, if the reserve does prove to be home to commercial amounts of copper and other minerals, different scenarios to reduce mining impact on Dana reserve are available, according to the conservationist.

“The options include expanding certain zones of the reserve in exchange for letting go parts of it,” Khaled explained.

 The company has already collected surface samples, according to Husami, who said that samples from below surface and deeper points will be collected this month and that the exploration programme will end in October of this year.

 The group said studies had already been conducted by international firms and Jordan's national resources authorities, while an environment impact study is under way, in cooperation with the Royal Scientific Society.

 According to a 2015 study by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Wadi Faynan Area, where Dana lies, has around 20 million tonnes of copper reserves. The price of the metal on international markets exceeded $7,000 last month. 

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