Residents of Dana feel ‘neglected’ in a dispute over copper mining

1. Dana Biosphere Flickr
A potential copper mining project leaves some residents of Dana hopeful for new job opportunities. (Photo: Flickr)
AMMAN/DANA — The dispute between the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) continues to escalate, but residents of Dana, which hosts the Dana Biosphere Reserve, and its surrounding areas feel excluded from the equation.اضافة اعلان

“They’re fighting over a piece of land that belongs to us, and we’re not even being consulted,” said Ahmad Aledeenat, a resident of Dana. “But either way, we definitely encourage the Ministry of Energy to invest in Dana and copper mining. Maybe that would combat the high unemployment rates in the area,” he continued.

The unemployment rates among youth in Dana and Tafileh have surpassed 55 percent, according to a source from the Tafileh Reconstruction Committee.

In a presentation at a press conference, Energy Ministry Secretary General Amani Al-Azzam, deputizing for the minister, explained the importance of investment and copper mining.

She specified three areas in southern Jordan that were introduced as potential investment projects and revealed that local and international investors had shown interest in these areas, including Manaseer Group.

Azzam also explained that the government would compensate Dana by exchanging the land it allocates for copper mining with an equivalent piece of land, as the whole southern part of Jordan shares the same topography.

Meanwhile, the RSCN is firmly objecting to using land in Dana for copper mining. The organization stressed that once permission is granted for mineral extraction, it would be continuously expanded. The RSCN argues that this will lead to the exploitation of vast areas without a feasibility study. 

“The RSCN is acting as if we’re going to start mining tomorrow,” said Wael Abu-Irmaileh, CEO of the technical department at Manaseer Group. “If they care about nature that much, they would’ve cleaned up the reserve instead of leaving it looking like a plastic waste dump,” he contended. 

“They don’t understand that the mining process will not affect the surrounding natural varieties,” Abu-Irmaileh explained, adding that tunnels will be dug under the surface, “similar to what our Nabataean ascendants did in the exact same area 3,000 years ago.”

The ministry and Manaseer Group led residents and media representatives on a tour of a copper mining site built by the Nabataeans to prove that there is copper in Dana Biosphere Reserve.

Manaseer Group began prospecting for copper in early 2016. They were optimistic that sufficient quantities of copper could be found in the area to allow Jordan to compete globally in copper mining. 

Although Tafileh and Dana residents are welcoming the potential copper mining project, others are still skeptical of the economic benefits that mineral extraction and investors would provide.

“I think it’s my right to lose hope in the government and the decision-making process in Jordan; I’m afraid that Dana’s reserve lands will be exploited for no actual economic return,” said Ahmad Awadi, a resident in Tafileh.

Another local visitor of Dana, Salameh Hadidi, said that the RSCN is not doing enough work to help Dana’s reserve, describing the points they raised during the tour as lackluster. “It seems to people that they’re not doing the bare minimum to protect the wildlife, like cleaning up the reserve or promoting it to local and international tourists.” 

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