H.E. Dr Ahmed M.M. Alsadig Al-karory (AM), Minister of Minerals, explains how Sudan is trying to attract foreign investment to develop the vast potential of its mineral reserves which include gold, silver, copper, chrome and iron ore
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LE: What are the Ministry’s priorities, and how is it seeking to promote mineral diversification?
AM: Sudan has been known since ancient times as a land rich in minerals; Nuba land, in the north of Sudan, is known as Golden Land. Our experience in mining goes back more than two centuries. Historically, the purpose of the colonial campaigns was to obtain the gold that was found in Sudan, whether in the north or in Blue Nile state, especially in the southern region of Blue Nile.
The government is now focused on mining; in gold alone, over 250,000 artisan miners across the country have benefited from traditional mining. We are looking to expand that capacity and attract more foreign capital.
Sudan is regarded as one of the world’s most promising countries in the field of mining. Among the Ministry’s main responsibilities is to encourage and attract local and foreign investment, in order to promote the development of the sector, which is one of our main goals. However, reaching it poses many challenges, given the competitive international environment.
LE: For international investors, which minerals have the best prospects for long-term growth?
AM: For a long time, the Sudanese government didn’t protect its minerals sector; now it wants to take care of the industry and promote its growth. We have created an environment that encourages and attracts investment and have started to invest in the minerals field ourselves. In the past, there was only one company, the Ariab Mining Company, which was a partnership between Sudan and the French Geological Research Body (RGM). It began operations in 1991, and today produces 80 tonnes of gold a year. This company is now fully Sudanese-owned. It specialised in producing copper, but then discovered gold. Now, the company is preparing to invest in the gold sector, given the large reserves that have recently been discovered: 140 tonnes of gold, 300,000 tonnes of silver, 700,000 tonnes of zinc and 130,000 tonnes of copper.
LE: Where are the mineral resources located in Sudan and to what degree have you been able to attract foreign investment to help exploit them?
AM: Mineral deposits are widespread across all the Sudanese states. Gold has been found in 12 of the 18 federated states and other minerals such as iron, chrome, copper, silver, zinc, lead, aluminium, cobalt and nickel have been discovered throughout the country. Today, we are dealing with a number of companies, either local or foreign, that want to enter the mining sector. There are currently 403 companies working in the field of minerals in Sudan; of these, 52 are foreign and the rest are local or domestic firms.
LE: How important is the development of the downstream mining industry (such as gold refining), in coordination with foreign partners?
AM: That’s a good question. One of the problems of the minerals sector in Sudan to date has been that added value does not exist. We still export these minerals as raw materials. For example, iron is exported as a raw material and we import manufactured iron. Chrome is also exported as a raw material.
LE: What can you tell us about undersea mining?
AM: The Saudi-Sudanese Atlantis project was signed in 1974, but for years there was no interest in activating it. Now we have done so in partnership with our Saudi brothers. Two months ago, we held a joint commission meeting where we put together a plan for the company, which is called Manafe, to begin production. To date, it has done a lot of exploration and has discovered mineral deposits, specifically gold and copper, in the region concerned. Soon production will begin but, as is well known, marine mining is harder than normal mining and needs more time to reach the production stage.
LE: How can foreign companies take part in the success of Sudan’s mining sector?
AM: Sudan needs manufacturing and it needs added value in minerals. We are interested in finding partners to lead the way in an effective and sustainable fashion. So we are inviting international investors to enter into partnerships with Sudan in order to create added value. It is known that crude oil export is at a low price, but if we exploit value-added manufacturing, we can increase the benefit to the country.