An activist in the field of environmental protection in Sudan’s River Nile state, Abdelazim El Badawi, has warned of the environmental damage, and serious public health problems, that have befallen the areas between the towns of Atbara and Berber as a result of the traditional mining operations in which mills are used.
“The Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Resources, and the Sudanese Society for the Protection of the Environment carried out, in the previous period, studies, visits and field surveys of the area between north Atbara and south Berber, and reached frightening and dangerous results in serious health problems such as toxicosis of foetuses and new-borns, in addition to neurological and respiratory diseases, kidney failure, liver diseases and allergies as a result of the use of mercury, cyanide and other chemicals to extract gold in residential areas and farms. He stated that inhaling mercury vapour leads to difficulty breathing, suffocation and death.”
Abdelazim said that the spread of mixers around and in the middle of residential areas poses a danger to humans, land, animals and birds, and he explained that the team of researchers revealed the presence of more than 700 tons contaminated with mercury, equivalent to 450,000 tons of mining waste (karta), in addition to the presence of 7,000 mixers used in mining. More than 75 per cent of the waste piles are located at a distance of less than 50 meters from residential areas.
He added that awareness-raising about the environmental and health risks resulting from gold mining in the region is weak, despite the team of researchers publishing the results of field research and laboratory analyses among the residents of the area.
The activist further stated that the procedures of the River Nile state government represented in issuing decisions, fines and penalties for miners have limited a lot of their activities, but he did not confirm that these activities had stopped completely, and added that mining operations had moved to other areas, namely the villages scattered on the Atbara River, which is considered a serious matter. At the conclusion of his speech, Abdelazim stressed the need for deterrent laws and penalties to stop these activities.