Demanding Bodies Association condemns toxic impact of gold mining in Sudan

Gold extraction through chemical treatment with materials containing cyanide is causing an environmental disaster in Red Sea state, according to a statement by the Demanding Bodies Association.

Person collects dead fish (File photo)

Gold extraction through chemical treatment with materials containing cyanide is causing an environmental disaster in Red Sea state, according to a statement by the local Demanding Bodies Association. 

Cyanide is very harmful to humans and the environment, and its use in chemical treatment processes has polluted rivers and streams which are a source of potable water in the Red Sea state, said the statement. In addition, fish stocks have declined significantly. 

On Thursday, Medameek online newspaper published an article citing the statement, which said that monitoring reports of illegal mining activities in Red Sea state confirmed that gold extraction plants are using materials containing cyanide. 

The monitoring gathered evidence of the presence of cyanide in factories, plants, and water basins in Arbaat locality, which is the main source of drinking water for Port Sudan, located about 20 km north of the city. The Demanding Bodies Association said that "its use has become a terrible environmental threat to land and coastal waters," in addition to humans and the environment. 

The reports focus on four plants set up west of the mining area of Kabeidab, one of which is affiliated with a military authority, which uses cyanide to process mining waste (called ‘karta’ in Sudan).  

Large quantities of fish in the Deim Mayo Bay in Port Sudan have died, showing signs of unusual swelling and changes in the scales. 

In the statement, quoted by Medameek, the Demanding Bodies Association called on “all concerned authorities represented in the Government Secretariat of Red Sea state, the Ministry of Minerals, and the Sudanese Mineral Resources Company, the aquaculture and fish sector of the Ministry of Livestock, all active associations in the field of environmental protection, and academies specialised in public health and marine sciences, and concerned individuals, to move quickly and stop the direct damage to the environment.”

The Association further stressed the “necessity of conducting urgent studies to find out and prevent the causes of fish deaths, and to verify a causal relationship with mining activities, while making the necessary arrangements to ensure the health and safety of the sea environment and prevent the causes of pollution, whatever they are.” 

Sudanese people have been protesting against the use of toxic substances by gold mining companies for many years. In an interview with Radio Dabanga in March 2015, a resident from Wadi Halfa in Northern state said: “Cyanide spreads through the air, and can reach places over a distance of 150km. This has caused an increase in cancer cases, and the pollution of the water and the air, with the result that birds are dropping dead, and large numbers of dead fish are now floating down the Nile.” 

“The use of cyanide and mercury will definitely lead to an environmental disaster in the country,” El Jeili Hamouda Saleh, Professor of Environmental Law at the Bahri University in Khartoum and legal advisor of the National Committee for Environmental Protection said in an interview with Radio Dabanga in August 2017. 

Sudan issued directives calling for an immediate halt to the use of toxic mercury and cyanide in mining operations across the country on October 9, 2019, following mass protests in South Kordofan and elsewhere in the country.