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‘Most mining companies in Sudan violate environmental law’: expert

December 5 - 2016 KHARTOUM
Smoke rises after a blast in a quarry at the Ariab mine in eastern Sudan's Red Sea state, September 2011 (Reuters)
Smoke rises after a blast in a quarry at the Ariab mine in eastern Sudan's Red Sea state, September 2011 (Reuters)

Significant environmental law violations regularly occur in the oil-producing and mining areas in Sudan, says environmental expert Dr Hasan Mohamed Hamad.

“And there are no qualified environmental entities to follow up the mining operations in the country as required by the law,” he told Radio Dabanga in an interview on Sunday.

He pointed to “the considerable pollution” of the soil, water, and the air in the oil producing areas in West Kordofan, and a number of mining areas in the rest of Sudan. “The foreign mining companies in Sudan never intended to spend money on measures for the protection of the environment. In fact, those companies belong to the most polluting countries in the world.”

There are approximately 400 mining companies and 250 traditional mining companies operating in Sudan.

Rights

“The people living in mining areas have the right to refuse the presence of companies that do not comply with international standards and environmental protection laws,” Hamad said.

“In general, the Sudanese should rely more on the environmental law,” he stressed. “As it is a good law that gives the citizens the right to maintain a clean environment in their residential areas.

“The people have the right to refuse the presence of mining companies that do not comply with international standards and environmental protection laws.”

“If the traditional gold mining companies refuse to stop using cyanide for the separation of gold particles from ore, they should be prosecuted,” the expert added. “And the people who are selling the toxic substances at the markets of Abu Jubaiha in South Kordofan should be arrested.”

Hamad further pointed to the local populations’ rights to development and services. “The oil and mining companies that obtain a license for Sudan must provide water, health, and education services to the people in the areas they are operating in.”

He blamed the Sudanese authorities for not protecting the rights of the population in the mining areas, and demanded from the government “to empower native administration leaders in the environmental protection process, and provide them with technical support rather than giving them orders from above”.

Protests

The use of cyanide and mercury in traditional mining has been the subject of parliamentary debates and protests during the last couple of years.

In December 2015, Minerals Minister Ahmed El Karori acknowledged that Lake Nasser in northern Sudan was heavily polluted. The lake, locally known as the Nubia Lake, contained high levels of mercury, lead, and arsenic.

“The oil and mining companies in Sudan must provide services to the people in the areas they are operating in.”

El Karori announced in May this year that he will investigate mercury alternatives and the possibility of an agreement to ban the use of the chemical by 2020. He said that an immediate ban on mercury in Sudan would have a negative economic effect on the mining industry.

He further said that Sudanese companies processing the waste of traditional mining have been licensed to get rid of mercury, the Minister said. He lauded the expertise of Russian companies in this field. The Russian Koch Company is currently the largest gold producer in Sudan.

People in northern Sudan, South and West Kordofan have staged protests more than once over the past few years against the use of mercury and cyanide by gold mining companies. In northern Sudan people complain about an unusually high rate of cancer cases. Two months ago, the West Kordofan Youth Council reported an increase in miscarriages, childlessness, distortions, skin diseases, and allergies in the mining areas.


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