Khartoum, Sudan — MININGREVIEW.COM — 07 September 2010 – The government of Sudan plans to more than double the country’s gold output in two years, partly to help make up for a possible fall in oil revenues if its crude-producing south chooses to secede in a looming referendum.
Minerals minister Abdel Baqi al-Jailani told Reuters in an interview here that Sudan could raise annual production to more than 40 tonnes by 2012 by regulating tens of thousands of small-scale prospectors, many of whom currently smuggle out finds, and by licensing out new blocks to global mining firms.
His estimate of current annual production at around 20 tonnes “’ far above some industry estimates of between 4 and 6 tonnes a year “’ included new data which he said showed that small artisanal mining operations already registered with the government had produced 10 tonnes of gold between January and June this year.
Sudan has been known as a source of gold since the time of the Pharaohs and its ancient Nubian kingdom. Jailani said large reserves had lain unexploited in modern times because the country had been too focused on marketing its agricultural and oil prospects.
“Historically speaking we know that Sudan is rich. But the reason we are so late to invest in this sector is that we had other easier options, he added.
“Frankly, we don’t know if Sudan is going to be split or united. If the south does secede “’ you know 60% of our budget comes from petrol “’ we will have to sit and think of another alternative,” said Jailani.
“I would say current annual production is around 20 tonnes. In two years’ time it will be double or triple,” he predicted.
Sudan’s largest single gold mining operation is run by Ariab, a partnership between Sudan’s government and Canada’s La Mancha, in east Sudan’s Red Sea state. Jailani said the ministry had already identified promising blocks for gold exploration elsewhere in the country.
He added that he had signed around 10 new licence arrangements with foreign mining firms since he became minerals minister in June, and had another five deals on the table waiting for final approval from state authorities.
Jailani said he was currently in discussion with mining companies from Austria, Australia and the United States, despite heavy trade sanctions imposed by Washington, but declined to name the companies.