Telkok / Hamashkoreib — Protesters in the Telkok and Hamashkoreib locality in Kassala have continued their blockade of the markets around mining areas for more than a year now, demanding environmental regulations and that the mining revenues be invested into the local economy. Sudan’s Minister of Minerals Mohamed Bashir Abunamu, alongside Kassala’s Governor Khojali Hamed, attended a meeting with miners, civil stakeholders, and community leaders on October 22, in an effort to mediate and resolve the impasse.
Community leader for the Telkok locality Sheikh Suleiman, promised that mining would resume once residents of the region were granted the right to manage local mining under the supervision of the government. They also demanded that more people from within the mining area’s localities be employed, while accepting the appointment of external technicians in specialisations that are not available among them, if necessary.
Betai added, “We are not in a rush to resume mining, and we will give the minister the time he requires to respond to our demands.” He said, “But we will not allow our resources to be tampered with. We want peace and we are not fomenting strife.”
Attendees proposed the formation of a committee of residents local to the mining areas of Telkok and Hamashkoreib to supervise the disbursement of social investment funds. The proposal received the approval of the minister and the state governor.
During his visits, the mineral minister reportedly attempted to appease all parties in order to maintain security in the mining areas, to ensure continuity of production, and avoid inter-communal conflict.
The government minister responded to their demands, agreeing on the importance of providing mechanisms for regional economic development. Abunamu promised to coordinate with the relevant ministries to find adequate solutions to the problems of electricity, communications, roads, employment, and water.
In a Facebook post, the minister confirmed his attendance at the meeting, as well as his commitment to address all legitimate demands within his ministerial powers. He stressed that the closure of mining sites has delayed the arrival of social responsibility funds to their intended beneficiaries.
Minister Abunamu, directed the executive agencies in rural Kassala to redouble efforts to prevent the smuggling of gold, noting that the rural areas of Kassala are one of the areas rich in mineral resources and producing gold.
Sudan is one of the largest producers of gold in Africa, however, production is often driven by unregulated, artisanal (individual subsistence) mining, and routine gold smuggling across international borders is a constant problem.
It is estimated that between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of Sudan’s gold is smuggled out of the country, with proceeds frequently used to finance internal conflicts.
Protests against traditional gold mining have increased in recent years in several states in the country, especially South Kordofan, North Kordofan, North Darfur, and Northern State.
In South Kordofan, at least 10 gold mining plants in have been closed by activists during the past few years. In October 2019, the government prohibited the use of mercury and cyanide in gold mining.