Khartoum, (sudanow.info.sd) – Gold has not only captivated the hearts of the Sudanese women who use many pieces of it as beauty accessories, but also the Sudan’s non-oil exports which include many important commodities of high competitive values at international markets.
In this respect, gold has constituted %58 of Sudan’s total external trade in non-oil exports in the past six months.
Sudan’s gold revenues during January until the end of June 2011 amounted to 532. 4 million U.S Dollars compared to the other non-oil exports which registered 917, 50 Dollars, according to the most recent statistics of the Bank of Sudan regarding the country’s external trade.
These statistics indicated that the gold exports increased during the last six months in current 2011 with an average of %13 compared to the same period in 2010 when gold revenues amounted to 469, 54 Dollars.
Sudanese Minister of Minerals Dr. Abdul-Baqui Al-Jailani said that the gold revenues are expected to remarkably increase, saying that “if the oil pipes of the country are closed, the gold pipes will open”.
The minister, speaking at the National Assembly recently, said the ministry was planning to open a gold refinery early 2012 and that the minerals would play a major role in supporting the country’s national economy in the coming period.
He said there were companies that have already obtained licenses to operate in the field of gold mining in Sudan through scientific means and that 5 of those companies would begin production as of current 2011.
The Bank of Sudan, in the meantime, estimated in its regular economic bulletin that the country’s gold exports would continue to grow due to the government’s concern with this valuable mineral and its endeavors to conduct further exploration operations in most parts of the country.
He further said that the government was working to utilize modern means in the gold exploration operation and encourage the local and foreign companies to invest in this field, which would double the gold exports by end of 2011.
Gold prices have registered remarkable rise during June 2011 compared to May where the gram price reached 48 Dollars at a time when the gold revenues in June amounted to 84.98 million Dollars, according to official released statistics.
The rapid rise in the international gold prices has greatly served the Sudanese government, particularly after it has lost its oil share in south Sudan’s oil following the separation of the region in July this year. Since early August 2011, the gold prices have remarkable increased to reach 1786 Dollars for the ounce by end of July as a historical record.
The gold prices have kept on fluctuating during June between rising and dropping, but they started rising by end of the month at London stock exchange, the biggest gold market in the world.
According to the Bank of Sudan, the exchange rate of the Sudanese pound against the U.S Dollar, this is set at 2.67.02. This price indicates that the price of a pure gold gram, 24 carats, is equivalent to 153.3 SDGs.
Most of the gold production is not done by the government but by the traditional mining sector. Sudanese Minister of Minerals Abdul-Baqui Al-Jailani said that at the beginning of 2011, 36, 6 tons of gold, extracted by the means of traditional mining, have been sold.
He however pointed to some negative impact that occurs during the traditional mining process, affirming that his ministry was working to adopt certain measures to reduce that impact to preserve the human health and the environment.
He said such measures included finding alternatives for gold purification instead of mercury which is used by many of the people operating in the field of traditional mining.
Varied readings and indicators:
Yagoub Ali Janqui, a participating lecturer of economics at the University of Khartoum, Faculty of Administrative Science, attributed the rise in the gold exports compared to other exports to many indicators and readings including the fact gold was started to be exploited together the fact that it has become influential to Sudan’s external trade.
Gold does not prevent against shocks and hardships:
Janqui however believed that the high dependency on one commodity does not prevent Sudan’s economy against impacts and hardships, explaining that in the past the international oil prices gravely dropped twice, namely in 2008 when we suffered a lot and then again after separation of South Sudan. Therefore, the same thing can happen again if we depend on gold, particularly that gold can dry out even if we have huge reserve as it was stated by the officials.
Community outruns government:
He added that the gold which has been exploited in such influential manner in the Sudanese economy was unplanned by the government.
He explained that countries usually plan and determine the way in which they would utilize their resources, the means of exploitation, the technologies to be used and above all else to when and where to do that.
What happened with gold, however, was that the community has outrun the government where great exploration operations started with simple and traditional techniques, which increased the volume of risks to which the individuals are exposed, he said.
Nevertheless, he reiterated that the traditional mining was not bad as the government’s long-term strategies to empower the private and native sectors to play a greater role in boosting the Sudanese economy, he said, adding that this matter should be planned for help develop the community.
The major problem:
Janqui said the major problem in the traditional mining is embodied in disorganization of the producers in modern forms that enable them to exploit this wealth in an effective manner or help them to use modern technologies and equipment to boost the country’s economy through extraction of greatest possible quantities without any loss or damages during the non-scientific purification process.
He said the gold exploration was a gift from Allah, the God Almighty for the different categories of the community as it opened job opportunities for the youths and individuals, saying that the government should work to adjust the disadvantages of traditional mining and support, namely in field of marketing to ensure its contribution to the national economy through official channels.
Overcoming big government concern:
Deputy Dean of Faculty of Economics at Al-Rabat University Dr. Omer Ahmed Sayed, meanwhile, said that gold mining and the rise in its exports have overcome a great concern for the government after the great deficit in the country’s budget due to the loss of south Sudan petroleum.
He added that this matter was a good indicator that gold and other minerals constitute important alternatives that can contribute to boosting the national economy.
He went on to say that gold, despite its exploitation and contribution to the national economy in a short period that dates back to 2009, yet it would be very promising if the government attached it greater concern and improved the traditional means of its mining.
It is to be noted that though investment in gold is easy and guaranteed in terms of quick returns and benefits, but its markets at the local and international levels are embodying great risks including price fluctuation, matter which necessitates the government to provide high technologies to enable predicting the movement of the market and price indicators at the international market of this important commodity.
The government should also work to conduct necessary studies on gold to provide the necessary technology to better exploit it in development.
In this respect, Dr. Sayed said that the traditional sector cannot invest in establishing the infrastructures of gold mining and therefore, the government must live up to that responsibility to facilitate the investment in the field and attract local and foreign investors.
Studies for alternatives:
Dr. Sayed explained that the traditional investment in gold mining has opened the door widely before the academic studies at the country’s universities to find alternatives for the government revenues where investment in minerals has given indicators that there were other sectors with promising opportunities.
The empty side of the cub:
Dr. Sayed stated that here we should not look at the cub as it is full for there is an empty part of the cub where the high percentage of gold in the country’s external trade indicates that there was a clear neglect for the other natural resources that have not received enough concern from the State, particularly agriculture and the animal resources which represent the main pillar of the Sudanese economy.
The high unemployment rates and failure to link education with the labor needs pushed many young people and other community individuals to take the risk of traditional gold mining. Therefore, the State should not close this door in their faces. Instead, the State must work out scientific plans to utilize the traditional mining sector in boosting the national economy and at the same time ensure job opportunities to reduce unemployment rates.
Darfur: War and gold:
The Ministry of Minerals said that there were five companies which have expressed interest to operate in field of gold mining in South Darfur State and that the ministry and the state government have agreed to divide the gold site into concession blocks for the companies, allot sites for traditional mining for the natives and establish a regional office of geology in the three Darfur states.
The ministry further said that five sites for traditional mining have been allotted for the natives in the state, adding that around 25000 to 30000 people from the different Sudan states are working at those sites.
Acting Wali of South Darfur State Dr. Abdul-Karim Musa reiterated that the organized mining in the three Darfur States would abide by using the most modern technologies; matter which he said would reduce the negative impact of harmful materials such as mercury.
The Minister of Minerals Abdul-Baqui Al-Jailani, addressing a people’s gathering at Sulba national Gold Mine north of Nyala, capital of South Darfur State, stressed the importance of refraining from using the lethal material of mercury, adding that his ministry was embarked on finding alternatives for purification of gold other than mercury.
He went on to say that if the oil pipelines were closed, millions of gold pipelines would be opened, warning against involving the children in the gold exploration and mining processes.
The minister further urged the citizens to preserve security and order at the mining areas, calling on the security authorities not to allow any trend to carry samples of the soils to outside the mining sites to conduct foreign researches.
South Darfur’s acting Wali, meanwhile, directed the concerned authorities not to allow any trend to prevent the citizens from gold exploration at the gold mining areas, directing for formation of a committee, to be chaired by commissioner of Mershing locality, to organize the gold mining process and look into the complaints of the citizens.
The minister said his ministry was working to coordinate and unite the viewpoints among the concerned authorities at the different levels of the government including specifying the stamps and gold standards at the Sudanese meteorology and standardization authority together with utilizing the experience of the experts of the geological research and standards prior to import modern devices and equipment to analyze the samples of gold and other minerals.
The traditional or hand mining of gold provide more than a quarter of the world gold production and it is one of the industries responsible of releasing mercury in the environment in the developing world because the miners mix the mercury with river mud to purify the gold contained in the mud. In this process the mixed material is heated in wilding stoves or on open fire to evaporate the mercury with the aim to attain the gold which remains in small pieces. During the burning process, mercury can be inhaled by the people around, hang in the air of the surrounding environment or move to rest at a remote site where it is inhaled by the different living creatures. Consequently, mercury constitutes one of the most toxin materials that pollute the food chains.
A report, recently released by Blacksmith Institute for Environmental Researches in the United States and the Swiss Green Cross, titled “World’s Worst Pollution Problems: World’s Top 10 worst pollution problems”, indicated that pollution was number one contributor to death and inability and that gold mining with traditional means comes at the top of the most dangerous polluters in the world.
The report stated that most of the top 10 pollution problems occur in the developing countries and that pollution exposes the life of millions of people to permanent diseases, nerve disorder and death.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), for its part, estimated that the mixing process of mercury and mud releases around 1000 ton of mercury in the nature annually, adding that exposure to mercury may cause kidney disorder, arthritis, memory loss, abortion cases, breathing interruption, mental disorders, neurological damage and even death.
Present surface gold mining, which is taking place at many parts of Sudan, is currently subject to scientific studies to make sure whether it depends on removing only the mud from the surface or involves fragmentation of the sandstone.
Prof. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Hassan, from the Medical Occupational Training Center, said that the dust made by the mining process includes small Salka particles that rest in the lung, leading to lung fibrosis which takes years before its symptoms appear on the infected person.
In Geddarif State, for instance, random mining involves digging deep wells, matter which is so dangerous, he said.