Sudan has always been known to have huge mineral potential, especially so in gold, thanks to its large geographical surface area and diversified geology, which merge across the borders of seven countries.
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The Sudanese government dedicated more attention to the mining sector after 2011 when South Sudan became a separate nation, all in a bid to raise much needed foreign exchange. Gold production in Sudan totalled 22.3 tonnes in the first quarter of 2016, a solid increase of just over 2 tonnes compared to 2015, according to Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals. And so, the lucrative gold market has logically been the main target for growth, but this has been alongside the development of other precious metals.
In 2012, gold exports alone brought in $2 billion (US), which accounted for more than 50% of the country’s total export revenues in light of the huge drop in oil exports. This made gold one of the main export commodities of Sudan and propelled the country to number three on the top producers list for Africa, behind South Africa and Ghana. Over 38,000 tonnes of gold have been found in untapped mining sites where the government has not signed any commercial deals. The value of these estimated deposits is around $1.7 trillion (US), making them the biggest reserves in the world.
A report issued by the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organisation (AIDMO) confirmed that Sudan has huge reserves not only of gold, but also of chrome and manganese. The estimated mineral reserves sit at 700,000 tonnes of chrome and 100,000 tonnes of manganese. But this is just the start of a long, colourful list of estimated reserves: 53 million tonnes of asbestos, 5 million tonnes of talc, 150 million tonnes of gypsum, 1.5 million tonnes of kaolin and more than 15 million tonnes of magnetite.
The annual report from the Sudanese Ministry of Mining, presented by the undersecretary of the Ministry, Najim-Eddin Daoud, explained that gold production for 2016 had increased by 3%, with mining companies producing 3.4 tonnes, compared to 2015 figures of 3.7 tonnes, and that the production of traditional miners reached 18.9 tonnes in the past year, compared to 17.9. The report also praised the Ministry for tightening the control and supervision of the sector, and for following the infrastructure regulations after the implementation and adoption of the Mineral Resources Development Act of 2015. The act includes the deployment of observers who coordinate with the mineral police, vital for stopping the illegal exportation of any product from Sudanese soil.
To highlight the government’s push for investors into the country, the public and private sectors created SIMFE, the Sudan International Mining Business Forum & Exhibition. SIMFE is an innovative forum designed to promote Sudan’s rich mining sector, and to present to future investors the ways in which the country’s huge untapped potential can be explored. SIMFE 2016 was held in Khartoum in February, and provided an excellent networking platform for existing mining companies, service providers, equipment companies and investors already in the country, and those looking to move into the region.
One of the companies present was Sudamin, a pioneer and expert provider of specialist systems to the mining and metals industry. Sudamin is recognised as a leader in the exploration and project management of Sudan’s vast mineral wealth, by supporting mining firms in their quest to tap into these precious resources. The company provides a range of comprehensive solutions for turnkey projects, including complete mining operations, exploration and engineering services, highlighting the importance of the event to the sector in Sudan.
SIMFE marked a shift change in the governments methods of promoting the sector globally, affording them the opportunity to present the amazing opportunities to investors from the capital, and with other industry titans in attendance. The event established a dynamic relationship between the Ministry of Minerals and the private sector, with full cooperation from other government departments who are working to make Sudan a pro-business destination – a prerequisite for boosting the economy and achieving developmental objectives.
One titan of the mining sector in Sudan that already understands global investment and procurement is the Ariab Mining Company (AMC). The potential of the Volcanogenic Massive sulphide deposits (VMS) reserves under the control of AMC, which contain gold and many other precious metals have attracted the attention of serious investors. Ariab is looking to expand their operations by seeking investors to complement their experience of over 40 years of mineral research programmes in Red Sea Hills region of the country.
Sudan has vast, untapped mineral deposits throughout the country and thanks to the business-friendly government and the rehashing of mining regulations and legislation, they are waiting to be exploited. Phosphate is found in Mount Kuoun and Mount Lauro in eastern Nuba, and has been assessed as 400,000 tonnes of reserves. Meanwhile, kaolin, a clay mineral consisting of potassium and aluminium silicate, is found in some areas of Khartoum and in the south of the River Nile State. Granite, in turn, is extracted from the southern Wadi Halfa.
However, the biggest prize of all is the country’s gold reserves, which are found in three types of geological formations: the Parentheses Gossan formation in the Eriab region of the Nuba Mountains, in quartz-vein formations in North Kurdufan, Obaidiya and the Blue Nile region, and alluvial gold along the Nile River basin and its tributaries, particularly in the Blue Nile and Northern Sudan.
Gold, iron ore and base metals are all mined in the Hassai Gold Mine, located just 50km to the northeast of Khartoum, this being the only gold mine in the country with a production capacity of 90,000oz per year, and currently operated by the Ariab Mining Company.
Iron ore reserves lie in the Red Sea Mountains, in Mount Abu Tolo in South Kordofan, and in West Darfur and Baljrawih in River Nile State, while the reserves found in the Baljrawih area and Wadi Halfa area have been assessed at 2 billion tonnes. Uranium and rare earth elements have also been found in Darfur pit copper, around South and West Kurdufan, in the Red Sea zone, and near Butana.
Lastly, base metal reserves, such as zinc, lead, aluminium, cobalt, and nickel as found in the form of block sulfides have been assessed as 60 million tonnes in the Red Sea area in zinc ore alone. Lead has been found in the Kutum area of North Darfur, with aluminium finds in Darfur, cobalt in and around the Red Sea region, and nickel in the Red Sea, Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas of the country.