Economics

What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Lebanon?

Arable land is an important natural resource of Lebanon.

Lebanon is a country that is situated on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is among the smallest countries in the world. The country is bordered to the east and north by Syria and to the south by Israel. The nation also has one of the highest population densities in the Middle East. The country's rugged terrain has throughout history attracted asylum seekers from various ethnic and religious groups. The country is currently home to an estimated 4,140,289 people. The most distinct feature in the nation's landscape includes the mountainous terrain such as the snow-capped Lebanon Mountains, the Bekka valley, the coastal plain that borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Anti-Lebanon and Hermon ranges. Lebanon has various mineral products which include limestone, gypsum, oil, natural gas, and salt. Other important commodities include semiprecious gemstones and pearls among others.

Oil And Natural Gas

Lebanon has in recent years intensified its efforts in search of oil and gas within its territory. The country lies in the Levant basin where some other nations including Israel, Egypt, and Cyprus have discovered sub-sea gas fields. The nation is therefore highly hopeful that current exploratory efforts will yield substantial findings. The nation has already identified up to 10 offshore blocks that are up for licensing. It is estimated that the country may hold a potential of 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Lebanon had previously launched offshore exploration in 2013, but internal political disputes hindered the move. Exploration was further delayed by the lack of interest by major stakeholders who observed low global energy prices in the period that followed. Hydrocarbon exploration resumed in 2017 with the government beginning issuance of licenses in 2018 and 2019. Oil and gas exploration has however been rocked by disputes with neighboring Israel over blocks that sit in the disputed territory. The dispute was brought to the limelight when Lebanon included the blocks within the 332 square mile zone in its tendering process which Israel said broke the status quo regarding the disputed territory. Major oil and gas companies have cautiously decided to stay clear of the disputed blocks. The Lebanese government is hopeful that the global energy market will remain stable to support exploration efforts.

Limestone

Lebanon is known as a green and white jewel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The green is derived from the subtropical climate along the Mediterranean Sea while the white is derived from the whitish landscape as a result of limestone that covers most of the nation's landscape. It has been hypothesized that the name Lebanon comes from a Semitic word for white. Rock formations in the country mainly consist of sedimentary rocks which are mainly pale limestone. Despite the nation’s vast limestone cover, the limestone types are quite limited. Most of the limestone is considered very fine-grained as it requires a microscope to show its interesting features. The common sequence of sediments is from the Late Jurassic to the Middle Cretaceous period.

Salt

Ancient Phoenician records have been cited as evidence that salt ponds on the shores of a rocky Anfeh as among the oldest in the world. Anfeh is an ancient port located south of Tripoli. Salt miners carved out ponds on rocks on the seaside and carried seawater to the ponds, also known as Salinas in large jars. The miners then relied upon the sun and wind to get rid of water molecules through evaporation. The resulting salt crystals left behind were collected and transported to various points by caravan. Ancient Anfeh became a major commercial hub due to the salt industry. Ancient Cuneiform tablets dating back to 1,400 BC tell of the superior quality of salt from the Anfeh Salinas. Salt mining in the country has weathered various difficult periods including that of the Ottoman’s which had forbidden salt production. Salt production also went through a turbulent period during the French colonial rule. It was not until independence that salt mining regained legal status. Thousands of Salinas reemerged on the 5,381,955 square feet of the rocky shore. Salt mining has however in recent years experienced a significant downturn. Closer analysis of the Salinas has revealed that most of them have been neglected and left in a state of disrepair. Families that had once depended on the Salinas are slowly turning to other activities citing the high cost of maintenance and a disproportionate amount received in earnings. Many have blamed the government for allowing the importation of cheap Egyptian salt which is LL50,000 cheaper than Lebanese salt. Lebanese salt is slowly being pushed out of retail shelves. The government has maintained an odd silence on the issue that threatens the ancient salt mining industry.

Arable Land

The Bekka Valley contains some of the most fertile lands in the country. The valley benefits from alluvial deposits from the Lebanon Mountains and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains which are rich in nutrients. Agriculture in the country is also supported by the nation’s moderate climate and abundant water resources which make it an ideal location for crop production. Other regions which are major producers of pasture, crops, and meadows include Koura and Akkar in the northern parts of the country as well as the southern and coastal regions between Sidon and Tyre. Mount Lebanon also accounts for a fraction of the nation’s agricultural produce, but its rugged terrain hampers cultivation. Agriculture accounts for an estimated 3.5% of the country's GDP and employs up to 6% of the country's labor-force making it the 5thlargest employer. Major products include apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas. Other products include tomatoes, bananas, and maize. Agricultural products are mainly exported to other Middle Eastern nations.

Future Of The Lebanese Economy

Lebanon has one of the highest debt to GDP ratio, which is the third-highest in the world. The nation’s factional politics have also led to years of policy paralysis that negatively affects economic growth. The government is however hopeful that recently discovered hydrocarbon resources will turn the economy around and improve the lives of its population. However, experts have warned against excitement on the discovery as the path to production can at times take several years which can be frustrating for an anxious nation.

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