Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Gold Mining in Sudan - terra incognita

Despite its political instability, Sudan and South Sudan’s geology hosts high quality gold deposits.

The Blue Nile and the White Nile join forces at Khartoum. It slowly makes its way through the ancient Kingdom of Kush, before releasing Sahara sediment into the Mediterranean. From the confluence at Khartoum, the river is known as the Nile.
The gold deposits in Sudan look impressive; however, the issue will always be about risk. The fact not enough modern exploration has been undertaken in Sudan, and specifically South Sudan, is why the area is attractive.

South Sudan is considered terra incognita with regard to its economic geology, and infrastructure doesn't exist. A high risk region like Sudan demands a significant premium with higher returns and a shorter investment period.
Despite Sudan’s potential, there is an absence of large exploration projects and operating mining companies. Apart from small and artisanal mining in the south, no other mines are operating in the region. In the north, closer to Khartoum, the government owned Ariab Mining Company (AMC) has been operating the Derudeb and Hassai mines for more than two decades.

Sudan is not only blessed with gold. Beryl is found in the pegmatite of the Bayuda desert in central Sudan and chromite occurs in the Ingessana Hills. Copper with grades of 4.1% was mined 200 years ago in the Hofrat En Nahas deposit, while iron (Fe) deposits are located in the area of Jebel Abu Tulu.
Two years ago over 100,000 people fled a battle over a gold mine between two Arab communities in Sudan's Darfur region. The fighting broke out in the Jebel Amir gold mining area.

The fight was between the Beni Hussein, who are largely cattle herders, and the northern Rizeigat, a powerful tribe known for its camel herding. Scores of people were killed and dozens of villages burned. Members of the Beni Hussein tribe accused government forces of helping the Rizeigat.
Sudan expects to produce gold earnings over $3 billion. The country is seeking to offset the loss of most oil reserves when South Sudan became independent.

Sudan is boosting production of gold and other minerals to gain new sources of state income and of foreign currency needed to fund imports. Output has made Sudan Africa's third largest gold miner behind South Africa and Ghana, and closing within the top 15 producers globally.

Khartoum is in a decades-long dispute with Egypt over the Halaib Triangle to the north of Sudan, which has been run in effect by Cairo. The region is rich in minerals and oil: in January 2016, Sudan put its forces on standby as tensions increased. In 2017 the country produced 107 tonnes of gold, compared with 93 tonnes in 2016. Those figures are likely an under-estimate and do not account for gold produced illegally.

There are more than 170 gold mining companies working in Sudan, excluding unofficial mine operations. Khartoum plans to raise production in 2018 to make the country the ninth-biggest producer in the world and the second-biggest in Africa.

Experts say increased gold mining carries two inherent risks. The first was that the government, by making deals with outside investors, was pitting itself against locals. The second is environmental and the processing of gold, one of the main sources of mercury contamination in Africa.
Sudan is among Africa's poorest countries, but is sitting on top of perhaps the largest gold reserves in the continent, according to a recent survey by Arab League's Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO).