Wadi Feynan copper mining will pose grave threat to archaeological, environmental treasures — scholar

By Saeb Rawashdeh – Aug 22,2021

The interior of Um Al Ammid Roman copper mine in Wadi Feyan (Photos courtesy of ACOR/Jane Taylor Collection)

AMMAN — Both the cultural and environmental heritage of Wadi Feynan are supposedly protected by the Law of Antiquities No. 21 of 1988 and amended Law No. 23 of 2004, and by the Environmental Law of 2017, a Jordanian archaeologist said.

“Moreover, Dana Biosphere Reserve is on the tentative list of World Heritage Committee, which gives the area an additional layer of protection by international law,” noted Mohammad Najjar, who spent decades studying the ancient copper mines in Wadi Feynan.

Regarding the government initiative to explore copper deposits in Wadi Feynan, Najjar thinks that “it is impossible while preserving the archaeological and the environmental resources in the area”.

“What should be done in my modest opinion is to develop environmental, historical and religious tourism trails, considering the extreme richness and global significance of the resources, specifically the ancient copper production during the early Christianity in southern Jordan,” Najjar told The Jordan Times in an e-mail interview.  

Wadi Feynan is where the production chain of the ancient copper industry is illustrated by the still-standing monuments, Najjar noted.

He added that the ancient inhabitants of the area were attracted by the presence of copper ores at attainable depths.

“With the open mining all the archaeological sites and features will be completely bulldozed,” Najjar said.

The mining activity will pollute the area and poison the natural environment, he said. 


Energy Ministry defends decision to explore copper deposits in Dana Biosphere Reserve

By JT – Aug 19,2021

AMMAN — The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources on Thursday said that studies have shown that the copper deposits in Dana Biosphere Reserve are estimated at around 45 million tonnes. 

Spread over 292 sq km in Tafileh Governorate, 180km southwest of the capital Amman, the Dana reserve is rich in copper and manganese ore, the ministry said in a statement citing studies by the Natural Resources Authority.

The authority, since 1966, has conducted exploration projects at the site, with a number of wells, tunnels and trenches being prepared, the statement added. 

Investments in the location are forecast to reach some JD200 million, the ministry said, adding that the prospective project will create nearly 1,000 direct jobs for local residents, in addition to some 2,500 indirect jobs.

The ministry added that previous studies indicated that the amount of copper deposits in the Feynan area is estimated at 20 million tonnes and 25 million tonnes in Khirbet Al Nahas.

The project to optimise copper in Dana Biosphere Reserve was based on studies conducted prior to its official nomination as a nature reserve, the ministry said.

Following the recognition of the nature reserve, previous governments and administrations had called for separating the location from the reserve to make copper mining possible, the statement added.    

The Cabinet in 2016 approved copper mining in Dana Biosphere Reserve within specific spots. Accordingly, a memorandum of understanding was signed with a mining company to carry out mining activities over an area of 61 sq km at the reserve’s northern region, the statement said.  

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has repeatedly denied the mining company’s access to the sites identified in the memo, so the company was unable to meet the requirements of the agreement, including studying the environmental impact on the southern region and completing the exploration studies in the northern region, the statement read.

The mining company has, so far, spent more than JD2 million of the project’s allocation of JD20 million, over consultancy and exploration licence fees, the statement said. 

The company has informed the Energy Ministry about its intention to withdraw from the project as contractors have been prevented from entering the site, the ministry said.

Pledging to give another piece of land in return for the mining site, the ministry said that the reserve would be compensated in lieu of the land to be converted as a mining location.

The area of the potential mining site inside the reserve is estimated at about 79 sq km. 


Gov’t decision to begin copper mining in Dana Reserve draws public criticism

By Batool Ghaith – Aug 19,2021

AMMAN — The government’s decision to commission the Ministry of Environment to redraw the boundaries of the Dana Biosphere Reserve to begin copper mining has drawn criticism from the public.

Environment Minister Nabil Masarweh said that the ministry is charged with resetting the borders of the Dana Biosphere Reserve based on a study carried out by the Ministry of Energy, which revealed the presence of rich copper deposits within the borders of the reserve, the Jordan News Agency, Petra reported.

In a statement, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) stressed its rejection of the government decision, emphasising that it will take all legal and escalatory measures guaranteed by the Jordanian law to protect nature.

The hashtag #ProtectDana has been trending on social media platforms for days, as many Jordanians have voiced their disappointment with the government’s decision.

Twitter user Rahaf Moslem, expressed her sadness over the decision, demanding that the reserve must be protected from any disruption.

“At a time when most countries of the world are trying to protect their natural heritage and fight climate change ahead of the Glasgow Climate Summit, we see the pearl of our reserves facing an unjust decision that threatens its safety,” she tweeted.

Tariq Ramzi, a 27-year-old Jordanian who often goes on hikes and adventures, described the Dana Reserve as “spectacular”.

“The Dana Reserve is home to a great variety of wildlife. There are many fascinating plants and animals, it would be extremely sad to lose any of it,” Ramzi told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

He said that the Dana Reserve is “one of the most valuable treasures and most wonderful places we have in Jordan”. 

Hanan Qabarta, a twitter user in her post in Arabic said: “For the sake of future generations, preserve the rest of the agricultural lands and forests. We must protect nature reserves at all costs.” 


RSCN rejects gov’t decision to begin copper mining in Dana Reserve

Government resets boundaries of Dana Biosphere Reserve ‘without consulting RSCN’

By Rayya Al Muheisen – Aug 19,2021 – Last updated at Aug 19,2021     googleplus    

A view of Dana Biosphere Reserve, located in Tafileh Governorate, 180km southwest of the capital (Photo courtesy of Jihad Bdour)

AMMAN — The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) disapproves of the government’s decision to commission the Ministry of Environment to reset the boundaries of Dana Biosphere Reserve to begin copper mining in the globally recognised nature sanctuary, RSCN Chairman Khaled Irani said on Tuesday 

“Mining copper in Dana Biosphere has been a longstanding issue rejected by the RSCN. Mining activities will harm the unique ecosystems of the biosphere,” Irani told The Jordan Times on Tuesday. 

The Prime Ministry allowed the Ministry of the Environment to adjust the geographical boundaries of the biosphere, “without consulting the RSCN”, Irani added. 

Dana Biosphere Reserve has been managed by the RSCN since 1989, according to the RSCN website.

Dana Biosphere is the first natural reserve nominated and added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention list. The biosphere is also one of the most popular environmental tourist attractions in the Kingdom. 

The biosphere employs 85 locals, indirectly supporting 200 families, and provides almost JD2.370 million annually to the local community, according to a RSCN statement sent to The Jordan Times.

The statement added that the RSCN is legally in charge of establishing and managing all of the natural reserves in the Kingdom, according to Jordan’s 2005 Environmental Law. 

Spread over 292 square kilometres, the biosphere is located in Tafileh Governorate, 180km southwest of Amman. 

The Dana Biosphere is Jordan’s largest and most diverse nature biosphere, with 891 vegetation types that constitute 30 per cent of the country’s total flora, according to the RSCN.  Three of the plants in Dana Biosphere  can only be found at the reserve, the statement added.

The Dana  Reserve is also an important bird-watching destination as it is home to 217 different bird species, which counts for 50 per cent of the birds found in the Kingdom. Many of these birds are threatened by global extinction, the RSCN statement said. 

Under Jordan’s environmental law, natural reserves are protected and all issues related to their establishment and management are governed by the bylaw, “Natural Reserves and National Park By Law”, according to the UNESCO website. Dana Biosphere Reserve has had a management plan since 1996, with identified buffer zones, the website said. 

Despite multiple attempts by The Jordan Times, the Environment Ministry’s spokesperson was not available for comment.