Gold Deposits that Caused ‘trouble’ for Sudan
A deadly riot erupted in Sudan last weekend, killing more than 100 people and injuring nearly 1,100.
According to various international organizations, these deaths occurred as a result of clashes between the army and the militia group Rapid Support Forces (RSF). So far, most of the clashes have taken place in the country’s capital, Khartoum.
However, in the background of this conflict, there is a long series of events, tensions, conflicts, and political struggles that have not allowed political stability in the country since the fall of Omar al-Bashir’s regime in April 2019.
One of the reasons for the latest violence is the lack of communication between the two main military leaders who stayed in power to lead the country to democracy. Among them are the head of the RSF, Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hamdati, and the military chief and the country’s president, Abdul Fattah al-Barhan.
However, one of the main factors contributing to the tension in Sudan is that the African country has the largest gold reserves on the continent.
According to official data for the year 2022, Sudan’s exports were close to two and a half billion dollars, which is equivalent to the sale of 41.8 tons of gold.
Most of the country’s lucrative mines are controlled by the Heimdati and RSF militias, who finance their operations by selling precious metals not only to the government but also to neighboring countries.
‘Gold mines have become the main source of income for a country with many economic problems,’ Chewit Woldemichael, an expert on the Sudanese crisis, told BBC Mundo. In this period of tension it becomes a strategic objective and above all it has been a source of funding for the RSF and the army views it with suspicion.
“Also, large-scale mining has created a series of negative impacts in the vicinity of the mines, not only from the collapse of the mines but also from the mercury and arsenic used,” he adds. A large number of people have also died due to the mixing of water.’
The question is, what is the role of the gold reserves in the country in the violent protests currently taking place in Sudan?
Sudan and its gold reserves
After Sudan’s independence from Britain in 1956, a difficult process of reorganization began that was full of ups and downs. Initially, the country found a way to meet its expenses in the form of oil production.
However, in the mid-1980s, a process of independence began in the south of the country, which culminated in the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011, after intense conflict and difficult political decisions.
After the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan, Sudan lost two-thirds of its revenue from the sale of crude oil abroad. The depletion of resources thus increased the internal tensions between the various tribes, militias and armed groups living together in the country.
In the year 2012, it was found that there may be gold deposits in the north of the country called Jabal Amir to alleviate the difficult economic situation of the country. Alex de Waal, a Sudan analyst at Tufts University, told in the interview that the news was “definitely a godsend because the country had lost so much in the case of South Sudan, but it soon became a nuisance.” went because it intensified the struggle for territorial control between the various parties and everyone became a part of the fight to get the gold.’
According to official figures and de Waal himself, millions of youths flocked to this part of the country to try their luck with small mines and traditional tools. Some struck gold and became rich, others died from falling ears or fell ill from mercury and arsenic contamination.
Both these chemicals were used to process raw gold. In 2021, a defunct gold mine collapsed in the West Kordofan region, killing 31 people. Similarly, on March 31, another mine collapsed in the north of the country, killing another 14 people. According to the Sudan University of Science and Technology, in 2020, research was conducted on water in areas that were close to gold mines. The study found high levels of mercury and arsenic.
“The use of cyanide and mercury will certainly lead to an environmental disaster in the country,” said L. Jelli Hamouda Saleh, a professor of environmental law at Khartoum’s Naval University. There are more than 40,000 gold mining websites in the country. About 60 gold processing companies are operating in 13 states of Sudan, 15 of which are in South Kordofan. Most of them do not take care of the needs of the environment.
However, this is not the only thing that has brought matters to this point. A tribal leader known as Musa Halil and loyal to al-Bashir took control of the area after a tribal massacre that killed more than 800 people living in the area. Halil started mining gold and he sold this gold not only to the Khartoum government but also to other buyers.
However, in 2017, when Musa Halil, accused of serious crimes, was handed over to international authorities, control of the gold took over from Heimdati, the leader of the RSF and dedicated to protecting al-Bashir. During this period, the income from the sale of gold accounted for about 40 percent of the country’s exports. “The gold made Himdati the biggest mineral trader in the country, and because of it, he also gained control of the border with Chad and Libya,” says de Waal.
Sudan’s Road to Democracy
After the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in 2019 due to a military coup, the country was left in the hands of two people who controlled the armed groups, one Heimdati and the other al-Barhan. “The RSF, armed with 70,000 soldiers and more than 10,000 trucks to control gold production, was now Sudan’s youth army as the sole force controlling the streets of the capital, Khartoum,” says de Waal. had emerged.
In 2021, the two leaders reached a “weak” agreement that reaffirmed the start of a process that would ensure a civil and democratic government in Sudan. “In the agreement approved last December, it was clear that gold production would be handed over to an elected civilian government,” says Wold Michael. forced them to play a role in controlling the operations of the RSF.’
However, he points out that there are many forces that want to participate in controlling the gold in North Sudan. “As a result, the al-Barhan-controlled military tried to use negotiations on security sector reforms,” he says. It was one of many factors that turned tensions into violent clashes over the weekend. “If the fighting in Libya subsides, it is expected that more fighters who were fighting in Libya will return and continue fighting for resources, including gold mines,” he said.
According to analysts, peace will depend more on the international consequences of condemning the use of violence in the country. According to the experts, it is not necessary that the sides will have a complete victory, so unfortunately the casualties of all sides may increase and thus be condemned at the domestic and for that matter the international level. will go.’
READ MORE ABOUT SUDAN:https://factslover.com/who-are-sudans-rsf/