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Jordan's gold mines: Farewell to poverty?

Apr 11,2018 - Last updated at Apr 11,2018

Forget about oil potential in Jordan and all the mysteries and conspiracy theories surrounding it. We can be rich without it and, apparently, there is a political will to tap all assets hiding beneath the surface of a truly rich land. Along with such a wealth of both metallic and non-metallic minerals come hard currency, jobs and a cure to the ailing national economy. 

The past few weeks have seen signs of a more vigorous drive to mine resources that have remained untapped, including copper. Local energy and mining giant Manaseer Group has started actual exploration for copper and associated minerals in Dana Biosphere Reserve, earmarking $600 million for the two-year project. What is new about this development is that the project has been aggressively resisted by conservationists for a long time. 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 worth billions.

A few days later, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Saleh Kharabsheh, a man known for his hands-on approach, was in Aqaba to launch a programme to explore lithium and associated minerals, including silver and zirconium, where “promising” tests have been made. 

In an interview with senior geologist at the ministry, Hashem Zu'bi, for the purposes of this article, he explained that lithium's major use is in making energy-storage batteries, which is becoming for Jordan as the country pursues, successfully so far, a policy to increase the share of renewable sources in the national energy mix. 

And since we are living in an age where those who possess technology rule the world, Jordan has the potential to rise as a source of the precious "rare earth elements (REEs)", a group of 17 metals that are vital for the electronics industry, including chips, according to the pundit. There is a story to tell here: China, the world's top producer, decided in 2010 to tighten its export quotas for REEs, a study says. Major consumers "feared being cut off from the valuable metals. The trade dispute intensified when the EU, the USA and Japan brought the case before the World Trade Organisation".  

Moreover, Jordan has deposits of oil shale estimated between 70-100 billion metric tonnes of oil shale, both in shallow and deep zones and with a good percentage of extractable oil at 8-12 per cent. The technology problem seems to have been solved. CNBC reports that the US, led by shale oil companies that adopted cutting-edge technologies, will likely surpass Saudi Arabia and rival Russia as the world's leading oil producer this year. 

There are also "unlimited" silica resources of the best quality worldwide, while new deposits of potash have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. 

Yes, and gold. According to Zu'bi, Jordanian geologists have for the first time in history found economically feasible native gold in three out of 12 locations where tests are still being conducted in Wadi Araba, lying side by side with other metals such as lead and arsenic. The ministry has announced that six companies have shown interest in exploring the precious metal.  Fingers crossed. 

Challenges abound, however. With the mindset prevalent in the circles dealing with guest investors, chances of retaining them will remain weak unless transparent measures are taken to ensure these businesspeople the most convenient and inviting environment to do business.  Maybe it is time for Minister Kharabsheh and Minister of State for Investment Affairs Muhannad Shehadeh to sit together to make sure it happens.

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Comments

Exploit your resources or the Globalists will take them away from you by deception and force for their own profits.

So, clearly, this author is not an environmentalist?

That is all well and good, but what about affording our natural environment, the same considerations and protections that you advocate for businessmen? This blessed land we live on also needs our protection, not just for us but future generations. if we continue to disrespect the natural landscape by mining and digging most of it including within ‘nature reserves’ Jordan will begin to look like a piece of Swiss cheese ...hardly conducive for encouraging tourism, which is also an important part of the economy.

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