Sudan activist warns of ‘dire consequences’ of toxic gold extraction

A worker pans for gold in a pool containing mercury in Sudan (File photo: Leyland Cecco)

A workshop held by Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals and the Sudanese Mineral Resources Company in Port Sudan earlier this week ignored environmental studies on health and safety, including the use of toxic mercury and cyanide, activist and head of the National Committee for Environmental Advocacy Ahmed Mukhtar told Radio Dabanga.

Mukhtar warned of “the dire consequences of gold production without taking into account environmental requirements” and stressed “the need to employ gold revenues in development”.

Communities living in mining areas are not involved in the workshop, he said.

“The aim of the workshop is to investigate how to obtain financial returns from mining, regardless of the damages, without taking into account that future generations will receive their share of gold at the expense of the environment”.

He criticised the ministry and the company for dealing with gold in an “unscientific and unguided manner without taking into account the catastrophic effects, without caring about the negative effects on the public, and without studying the effects on people production areas from increasing gold production.

Social responsibility

Adarob El Hasan, chairperson of the Union of Mineral Workers in Red Sea state, welcomed directives regarding the review of mining certifications and the review of the disbursement of social responsibility funds.

The method of certification of mining companies is vague, he said, and called for the start of certification procedures from mining areas through a conflict-free procedure to avoid any conflicts with the public or inter-ethnic conflicts.

He stressed the need to review aspects of the disbursement of the social responsibility funds received from companies.


Sudan is reportedly the second-largest producer of gold in Africa and the ninth in the world. Gold mines are scattered across Sudan, including Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Artisanal mining has also drawn hundreds of thousands of gold seekers to the deserts of Sudan’s northern and eastern states.

The total gold production of Sudan in 2020 reached 36.6 tons. The revenues amounted to SDG 22.5 billion, of which SDG 16.6 billion was deposited at the Ministry of Finance.

As the production was driven by unregulated, artisanal (individual subsistence) mining, the transitional government began to regulate the mining and export of the precious metal two years ago.

In October 2019, the government officially took over control of the Jebel Amer gold mines in North Darfur. In March this year, the government established state control over gold exports. It was also decided to establish a Sudanese gold exchange.


Traditional gold mining is carried out by excavating the gold-bearing soil. The soil is then treated with mercury and cyanide to extract the gold. The highly toxic waste (called karta in Sudan) is often poured directly into valleys and streams, leading to heavy pollution.

Protests against traditional gold mining have increased in recent years in several states in the country, especially South Kordofan, North Kordofan, North Darfur, and Northern State.

In South Kordofan, at least 10 gold mining plants in have been closed by activists during the past few years. In October 2019, the government prohibited the use of mercury and cyanide in gold mining.