Kamal Al Haj (KA), General Manager at Sudamin, explains how part of the company’s work is to extract gold from waste material left behind by artisanal miners, while removing its dangerous mercury content
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LE: What are your priorities at Sudamin, in terms of attracting investors and helping the mining sector grow?
KA: Sudamin provides services to companies in the mining field, such as transportation of mineral ore and materials such as the chemicals that are used in extraction and processing. In general, Sudamin provides companies with all the support services they require, from catering and camping to transport. In the recent years, we have also been contracted for services in the field, such as digging or onsite transport. Because of the support we give to other companies in the mining sector, Sudamin plays a vital role for the success of the entire industry in Sudan.
Apart from providing services to other companies, Sudamin itself works in the field of extracting gold from tailings (waste material derived from mining). As you know, there is still a lot of artisanal mining carried out in Sudan. Artisanal miners extract the gold by using mercury, which leaves about 70% of the gold inside the ore. We buy the ore from the traditional miners, and at our factory we use technology to extract the remaining gold.
In addition, we remove the mercury that was used by the traditional miners. This is important because it stops the negative impact of the mercury on the environment in Sudan. We have two factories for this purpose in the area of Abu Hamad and we process approximately 500 tonnes of ore a day, from which we extract about 2kg of gold. We are not focused on extracting gold, but on removing the danger from the mercury that is used in traditional mining. In the future, we will be looking into the possibility of building another factory for extracting mercury, in the south of Sudan.
LE: By 2031, Africa will be the third largest investment destination for mining. What are you doing to convince international investors to come to Sudan and partner with Sudamin?
KA: Africa, and Sudan in particular, has great potential in mining. South Africa currently is the most attractive mining destination in Africa, being the largest gold exporter on the continent. Sudan can easily compete with South Africa, based on our mineral reserves. We are currently the third largest gold exporter in Africa, and are looking to become number two in the near future. So we have to make sure that companies find their way to Sudan and to our company, to invest and help develop it.
We promote ourselves by using different media. It’s very important to promote your country and the opportunities in mining or other sectors that are interesting to investors. We distribute our information and marketing material in the embassies of Sudan worldwide, and we use their offices to connect to investors and convey our message.
Besides having our pamphlets and folders at the embassies of Sudan around the world, we contribute to international magazines, which I think is very important. For the mining sector, international fairs and conferences are also a good way to connect with investors; that’s why we are always present at these events. Another method of promoting yourself is to directly approach the companies you want as a partner. When we approach them, we invite them to visit Sudan, so they can view the projects and see the potential for themselves. The Ministry of Investment helps us to arrange these visits, which create good opportunities for us to find the right partners. I think this is the way to break through, to get to the world and show them the real potential of Sudan.
LE: In the past, China used Sudan to start their investments in the oil sector in Africa. Now they are looking at other sectors as well. How interested are you in finding Chinese partners for Sudamin?
KA: I think the Chinese know the potential of Sudan very well, since they entered Africa through Sudan. We have now been partners for many years and the Chinese government knows what opportunities we have to offer them.
Before the secession of South Sudan, when we were one country, the Chinese were working with Sudan to extract oil. Both countries have heavily invested in developing good relations and maintaining the partnership. We currently have good bilateral relations and we are always happy to have new investments from the Chinese. They have a lot of experience in mining and are looking for more opportunities here to invest.
Mining activity in China is currently at a standstill, so they are specifically looking to enter the mining sector in Sudan and continue to make use of their expertise. We have invited many Chinese companies to come here and see for themselves.
I also think the infrastructure in Sudan, such as electricity, water supply and roads, is good. There are a lot of skilled workers available. After they receive training, the local people can help to develop your business and ensure a good return on your investment.
LE: What makes you most proud to be Sudanese?
KA: The most important thing is the peaceful atmosphere here in Sudan. The Sudanese people make the difference; they are welcoming and kind by nature. In the surrounding countries, you find problems and violence, but here in Sudan, people do not use violence to settle a dispute. We appreciate foreigners who come here and we help them in whatever way we can. Currently, Sudan is politically and economically very stable. Although this is not portayed by the international media, we are respectful towards all foreigners, wherever they come from and whatever religion they practise.
So we invite investors to come to Sudan and explore the opportunities. After the first visit, they’ll fall in love with the country and won’t want to leave.