Public Fight Puts End to Mining at Arava Sand Dunes

Zafrir Rinat
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Rolling sand dunes in the south of Israel.Credit: Yuval Tebol
Zafrir Rinat

The Israel Lands Administration has agreed to stop mining sand in the Samar dunes region of the Arava and to support a plan to turn the area into a nature reserve. This ends a public struggle that began five years ago against plans to turn a large section of the dunes into a mine for sand to be used for construction in the Eilat region.

In a joint announcement with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the ILA noted that it decided to stop the mining four months before the end of the contract that had been granted to the mining contractor, an exceptional move aimed at protecting the area’s natural resources. There was also a practical reason for it: In the end, a study by the Infrastructures Ministry showed that the amount of sand that could be mined in the area wouldn’t be enough for the planned construction in any case, and that sand could be supplied from other areas.

The Samar dunes had once covered an area of seven square kilometers, much of which was allocated over time for use by the communities in the area. Only 1.9 square kilometers remain, of which 0.7 square kilometers had been set aside for sand mining.

The sand mine began operating four years ago, and continued throughout despite the public protests. Although the mining was relatively limited, it was undermining the habitat of the area’s unique flora and fauna, among them several species at risk of extinction.

“Over the past two years we have made a great effort to return the amazing Samar dunes to nature,” said nature authority director-general Shaul Goldstein. “These efforts bore fruit because of the support of the general public and the residents of the Arava.”

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