Sudan govt: ‘gold exports surge, exceeding $428m’

Washing gold in Sudan’s Northern State (File photo: Social media)

The Sudanese Mineral Resources Company released a report yesterday indicating a remarkable surge in gold exports for the first quarter of this year. The exports surpassed an impressive milestone, generating revenue exceeding $428 million for the Central Bank of Sudan.

Mohamed Omar, the general manager of the company, as reported by SUNA, underscored the critical role performed by “current business strategies” in expediting the export process. Omar highlighted the company’s expectation of *gold export figures reaching $2.182 billion by year-end.

Engineer Ayman Hamed, director of the General Administration of Supervision and Oversight of Export Companies stated that the company’s first-quarter performance witnessed an unprecedented leap, with exports eclipsing “7.626 tons of gold, heralding a significant upturn in free gold exports”.

In press briefings earlier this month, Minister of Minerals Mohamed Abunommo stated that gold production last year tallied to 23.2 tons, with 12.9 tons earmarked for export. 

A total of 45 companies, together with additional entities, partook in the gold export operations, culminating in exports equalling $765 million.

Highlighting industry challenges, Abunommo shed light on the reluctance of several companies to engage in the mining sector amidst prevailing conflict concerns. 

Since the start of the war, now more than a year on, anxieties concerning asset loss and production interferences have dissuaded investment in the sector, leading to the cessation of operations by several entities.

The minister reported that roughly “130 concession companies in the exploration phase and 19 entities nearing the concession stage halted operations” due to the conflict. 

Nonetheless, efforts by the Ministry of Minerals have reportedly restored five companies to production status, albeit amid considerable losses experienced by the sector and the nation.

Abunommo reiterated that Sudan has lost over 35 companies in the waste sector, with 130 concession companies halting operations during the exploration phase and an added 19 future concession companies delaying production efforts.

‘Hazardous practices’

In February of this year, Radio Dabanga reported that gold mining activities in Sudan’s conflict-ridden regions have come under scrutiny for alleged exploitation of the war situation to expand operations. 

In areas like Talodi, South Kordofan, residents are facing health challenges attributed to the increased presence of mining equipment, particularly mixers, in mines such as El Laffa.

Reports from Talodi Hospital indicate a surge in cases of infections and cold-related illnesses among locals, with two instances of convulsions reported among residents living near gold mines. 

Concerned residents have sought medical attention and are demanding further investigation into the causes of these illnesses.

Environmental activists point to the escalating mining activities in the region as a primary factor behind the health issues. 

Recent observations suggest a significant uptick of **artisan mining operations, with companies reportedly ramping up gold extraction using potentially harmful chemicals.

Residents have noted a substantial increase in the number of active mining mixers, rising from seven to 19 between September 2023 and February 2024. 

Furthermore, recent reports indicate the installation of additional mixers, bringing the current count to 22, according to local sources.

These mixers, crucial in the gold processing process, contribute to the accumulation of hazardous mining waste known as ‘karta’ in Sudan, containing various heavy metals and chemicals detrimental to both human health and the environment. 

Environmental activists have highlighted instances of birth deformities and animal deaths attributed to the use of banned substances like thiourea and improper waste disposal practices in the region.

*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.