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Northern Sudan environmentalists stop army tanker in Sawadra

September 9 - 2022 SAWADRA
Protests in northern Sudan’s Sawadra against the gold cyanidation plant in the area, April 2017 (RD)
Protests in northern Sudan’s Sawadra against the gold cyanidation plant in the area, April 2017 (RD)

Young members of the Six-Party Committee for the Protection of the Environment in Sawadra, Northern State, on Wednesday prevented a water tanker to reach a plant of the International Mining Company in the area.

Sources told Radio Dabanga that the tanker belongs to the Sudan Armed Forces, and that the authorities are trying by all means to restart the facility that processes mining waste containing substances harmful to the environment. The residents of the area categorically reject the gold cyanidation plant in the area.

The people living in Sawadra have been protesting the use of the cyanide and mercury in gold mining for years. In April 2017, they blocked the highway between Dongola and Halfa, demanding the removal of the plant in the area. The local authorities however ignored a court order to suspend the operation of the site. Three years later, the Sawadra Six-Party Committee for Resistance to Mining Damage planned new protests after the state governor refused to implement the decision of the Ministry of Energy to gradually close the mines in the area.

Protests also took place in gold mining areas in River Nile state, in North Darfur, in North Kordofan, and in South Kordofan, where the highly toxic substances were reportedly even sold on the markets of Abu Jubeiha.

Mercury, causing damage to the nervous system at even relatively low levels of exposure, can contaminate the atmosphere and water at a very long distance. Cyanide that prevents the cells of the body from using oxygen, can be spread via water, soil, or air.

In 2015, Radio Dabanga reported the mass death of fish in Lake Nasser on the border between Sudan and Egypt, which sparked fears that mercury and cyanide leaked into the lake. A year earlier, northern Sudanese complained about an unusual high rate of cancer cases. In January 2018, a medical team headed by the Health Minister of South Kordofan investigated the increase in miscarriages, the birth of deformed children, and kidney failure in El Tadamon. Half a year later, environmentalists in South Kordofan reported the death of many birds and livestock in Rashad and El Tadamon following the resumption of mining in the areas.  

Following mass protests in South Kordofan and elsewhere in the country in 2019, the Council of Ministers outlawed the use of toxic substances in mining operations in the country. It is not clear however, if the new safety policy has been complied with.

Sudan is one of the largest producers of gold in Africa. The production however is often driven by unregulated, artisanal (individual subsistence) mining, and routine gold smuggling across international borders is a constant problem. It is estimated that that between 50 and 80 per cent of Sudan’s gold is smuggled out of the country. Reports also say that proceeds have been used to finance internal conflicts.

In an extensive report published in end July this year, CNN accused the Sudanese military rulers of letting Russia “plundering gold in Sudan to boost Putin's war effort in Ukraine”.


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