Mine disaster in Sudan: life-threatening gold mining

As of: 12/29/2021 2:31 p.m.

At least 38 people died in a mine accident in Sudan – several are still missing. Because many of the mines in the country do not meet current safety standards, such accidents occur again and again.

By Tilo Spanhel, ARD-Studio Cairo

In many rural areas of Sudan it sometimes looks like the moon. As far as the eye can see, there are deep holes and long trenches in the earth. Rubble is piled up to form small mounds. Gold is being digged everywhere. The country has many natural resources. The mines, like those in the West Kordofan region of Sudan, are anything but safe. Accidents happen here again and again.

“I would like to express my condolences,” said Ibrahim al-Amin, vice president of the Sudanese Umma party, on Al Hadath television. “We lost our sons in a mine collapse. Their souls are important to us. This is the drama that Sudan is going through right now.”

According to local media reports, the accident occurred on Sunday evening, but was only noticed later. There are pictures on social media that are supposed to show the scene of the accident. Excavators can be seen apparently looking for survivors. It is still not clear how many people were really buried in the accident.

“Ordinary citizens only get the crumbs”

According to official information, Sudan exports between 80 and 100 tons of gold a year. The country is one of the largest gold producers in Africa, after South Africa and Ghana. But much of the precious metal bypasses the state – is smuggled out of Sudan without the authorities noticing. Nobody knows exactly how much.

“Sudan is one of the few countries with such a large deposit of gold. Unfortunately, a lot of it is smuggled,” says al-Amin. “The normal citizens get nothing from it. And our sons, who try to get the gold out of the earth with the most primitive methods, only get the crumbs. And the use of poison in the production makes the situation even worse.”

Risk to the environment too

Gold mining in Sudan is often criticized. Many gold mines in the country are only operated semi-legally and do not meet current safety standards. Mines keep falling, like now in the West Kordofan region. In addition, children are often used to work in the narrow shafts. And the cyanide and mercury used to purify the gold endanger the health of workers and contaminate the groundwater. So the people around the gold mines also get sick.

But unemployment in Sudan is high. In order to feed their families, many people are forced to work in the mines.

Mine accident in Sudan

Tilo Spanhel, ARD Kairo, 29.12.2021 · 13:47 Uhr


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