Nuba face health problems as mining operations expand amidst Sudan war

Environmental activists hold banners that say "a human is worth more than gold" and "bring perpetrators to justice" during a protest against the use of poisonous metals in mining in South Kordofan, May 2022 (Photo: Abu Jubeiha Resistance Commitees / Facebook)

Goldmining companies are accused of exploiting Sudan’s war to expand their operations. Residents of mining areas in Talodi, South Kordofan, suffer from an abnormal outbreak of infections and colds as the number of mixers in the El Laffa mine has increased significantly.

A medic reported two cases of convulsions at Talodi Hospital on Wednesday who are living near a gold mine. A number of residents came to the hospital to find out more about the causes of the disease.

Environmental activists believe that the spread of these illnesses is due to the significant increase in mining activities in the region.

Earlier this week, Radio Dabanga already reported that people in Talodi observed a surge in mining activities as companies escalate gold extraction using toxic chemicals harmful to both human health and the environment.

Environmental activists allege that goldmining companies are exploiting of the country’s conflict situation to expand operations. These firms allegedly installed additional mixers since September. The amount of active mining mixers skyrocketed from seven to 19 between September 2023 and February 2024 according to residents.

New mixers were reportedly added in recent days. The current number of mixers is 22 according to local residents.

Mixers are machines used to process gold. Mining waste dumps from these mixers (called karta in Sudan), containing heavy metals such as admium, lead, zinc, copper, arsenic, selenium, and mercury or cyanide, form a long-term hazard second only to nuclear waste dumps.

In a recent interview with Radio Dabanga, environmental activists reported that the use of the banned substance thiourea, as well as the poor disposal of the waste by-product, has led to “multiple cases of birth deformities and animal deaths in the region”.


Before the war, Sudan was witnessing a significant wave of anti-mining protests. The various protests rallied against gold mining companies, especially against the environmental and health risks posed by the use of highly toxic chemicals such as cyanide and mercury. They took place in Red Sea state, Northern State, Kordofan and Darfur.

A 2022 report on mercury poisoning in Sudan pointed out that “years of indiscriminate use of dangerous chemicals such as mercury, cyanide, and thiourea without protective measures for miners or local populations, has exposed millions of people across Sudan to lethal risks”.

Since the war started, Sudanese have had to focus on other urgent problems and environmental activists allege that goldmining companies are exploiting the conflict to expand their operations.

The RSF also reportedly gets a significant part of their income from gold. According to the NGO Global Witness, RSF Commander Hemedti captured a large part of the gold market in Sudan and his family has ties to El Junaid Gold Mining Company.

In 2022, CNN published an investigation disclosing how “Russia is plundering gold in Sudan to boost Putin’s war effort in Ukraine” with the complicity of Sudanese military rulers, especially the RSF. Wagner mercenaries have also been spotted in Darfur mining areas.


A young man was killed in the Bagon mine near the village of Koro in South Kordofan’s Ghadeer locality last week, which caused tensions in the community.

The security committee of Ghadeer held an expanded meeting in the presence of Omda Khalil Ali, community leaders, and the family of the young man who was killed.

The director of the locality called on everyone to reduce tension, avoid further losses, and believe in destiny.

He praised the people from Koro for their patience, self-restraint, and combined efforts that prevented the conflict from widening and increasing the tension factor in the region by applying the slogan “security is everyone’s responsibility”.