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Jordan’s mineral resources: opportunity beckons!

Feb 20,2019 - Last updated at Feb 20,2019

Jordan’s location within the Arabian Nubian Shield gives it a unique opportunity for tapping into mineral wealth. The Arabian Nubian Shield is an ancient geological formation, which is considered as one of the richest geological areas in the world for potential mineral wealth.

Unfortunately and sadly, to date, Jordan is lagging behind many countries in the region, and also in the world, in exploring, discovering and developing its underground mineral resources. Leaving Jordan’s mineral resources heavily under-explored is keeping the country’s potential mineral resources untapped and undeveloped.

Known for its rich deposits of gold, the name of this geological formation, Nubia, is linked to “nwb”, the ancient Egyptian word for gold, and was the gateway through which luxury products, like gold, travelled from their source to the civilisations of Egypt and the Mediterranean.

Whilst $7.95 billion was spent globally on exploration in 2017, little of this investment has made it through to Jordan. Global exploration expenditure is expected to reach $21 billion by 2025.

In 2017, more than 1,600 international companies were active in exploration activities worldwide, with an annual mean average budget of $5.2 million and employing directly between 50-100 people each company. Jordan received hardly any of these companies. 

Jordan’s mineral-resource sector is not on the radar of international investors and mining companies for several reasons, which include but are not limited to; a lack of digitally available and accessible geological data, an uncompetitive legal framework, an internationally unattractive investment climate for mining companies, a lack of awareness of and PR about Jordan’s mineral potential amongst international mining and finance sectors, the abolition of the Natural Resources Authority and the overlapping powers between various relevant authorities.

The lack of international visibility is made worse by the negligible representation of Jordan’s mineral sector in international mining shows and expos, for instance Indaba, South Africa. Of course, without adopting the world-standard international regulations, legal framework and business infrastructure, all efforts to attract the investor’s attention would be fruitless.

Oil-rich Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt, which have parts of the Arabian Nubian Shield within their lands, have successfully adopted internationally competitive best practices and mining and exploration regulatory frameworks through the formulation and implementation of a collective and comprehensive “national mining strategic plan” to encourage and attract international investments in the sector by mining and exploration companies. Unfortunately, Jordan has yet to develop such frameworks and is still lagging behind.

A success story in Egypt, Centamin Australia has successfully developed one of the world’s largest gold mines, producing more than 14,000kg of gold worth over $650 million annually, which is a great success story that raised international awareness of Egypt as an attractive destination for mining companies. Each such developments leads to social and infrastructure developments which are second to none, including highways, ports, schools, hospitals, etc. Sudan last year produced more than $7 billion worth of gold from artisanal mining only!

Another example, Eritrea, a country that has suffered decades of sanctions, has managed to attract international foreign mining investors by adopting a world best practice regulatory and fiscal framework. Bisha gold mine is another success story.

That brings us back to California “Gold Rush” era, which propelled California from a sleepy little known state to a global destination for investors.

While His Majesty King Abdullah continuously and tirelessly roams the world, meeting and encouraging international investors to invest in Jordan in various industry sectors to alleviate the suffering of his people, still more steps need to be taken by the relevant mineral authorities to catch up with King Abdullah’s vision.

 

The writer is an expert in international mining, adviser to Oryx Management Limited, board member of Oryx Lithium; Oryx Advisory Services and TIL Australia, former minister commercial, senior trade commissioner for the Australian government. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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