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Miners blocked from working in S. Kordofan gold area

September 11 - 2018 KADUGLI
Gold miners in North Kordofan (Radio Tamazuj)
Gold miners in North Kordofan (Radio Tamazuj)
The location of Block SK24 (map by Kush E&P)

Last week, gold miners were denied entrance to the gold exploration area north of Kadugli, the state capital. They were sent away by a military force on the pretext that the same area is owned by a foreign mining company.

A number of local gold miners told Radio Dabanga that members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in approximately 19 Land Cruisers drove them away from working in the mine wells on September 5.

The area is being explored by the Russian Kush for Exploration and Production Co. Ltd. (Kush E&P), one of the biggest gold producing companies in Sudan. The paramilitary force said to be acting in the name of Kush E&P.

According to one of the traditional gold miners last week: “The commander said that Kush owns the area and told us to leave.” Radio Dabanga spoke to residents in neighbourhoods in Bardab, Shaeer and Hijeirat villages who expressed their concern that they might have to leave the area because of it.

On Monday Kush E&P denied having ordered the blockade in a response to Radio Dabanga. “... in no way and by no means has our Company blocked or created any difficulties to any legal activities of local residents in the Kadugli area. […] Kush has no capability 'to tell anyone to leave',” the reply reads.

Sources on the ground confirmed to Radio Dabanga yesterday that the paramilitaries did not act in the name of Kush when it told the local miners to leave.

Kush denies interference

Kush E&P explained that it has partnered up with the local mining company Algunade, that communicates with local authorities in the name of Kush E&P and works with the police and the military on local security issues. Algunade did engage with “specialised military units for de-mining the license area” for a large-scale de-mining effort in the license area, and about 8 square kilometers have been de-mined north of Kadugli up to today.

Even if the government states that the areas provided for mining are unoccupied, “more frequently than not it is not the situation on the ground”. People live, farm or work these areas,” Kush E&P said, stating that: “The population of the villages mentioned in your inquiry has no reasons to be concerned about any need ‘to leave the area’.”

Kush E&P received six exploration licenses in South Kordofan from the Sudanese government, started field works on the so-called Block SK24 license area (253 square kilometers) immediately and constructed a field camp with 24-hour security.

The company has operated in Sudan’s eastern Red Sea state from 2013 onward, in an area called Block 30 with a total size of 4,426 square kilometers. Its website shows that the Russian company has plans to increase staff for the project, of which 80 per cent are Sudanese people.

Facilities in Kush E&P's SK24 sector (click to enlarge)



Concerns about the mining activities in South Kordofan have persisted, however. In August, people in Delling renewed their rejection of the ongoing mining operations in the region and called on companies to immediately leave. In a meeting, local leaders expressed claims that the region is for agriculture and pasture, where the mining companies have not provided any services.

People in the meeting said that two months ago Kush E&P arrived to run mining operations in the area north of Delling up to El Goz (further north of Kadugli). “The Russian company is […] moving under military protection, preventing any people from approaching to know what they are doing on the ground,” Professor Siddig Tawer, scientific adviser to the National Committee for Environmental Protection, said.

Tawer’s team, led by the Health Minister of South Kordofan, earlier investigated a reported increase in the number of miscarriages, the birth of deformed children, and cases of kidney failure in El Tadamon. These deteriorating health conditions are often attributed to the result of environmental pollution caused by the use of toxics during mining activities in the region.

Kush E&P facilities in South Kordofan exploration area (photo: Kush E&P)

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