Gold Miners Destroy 2,000 Years Archaeological Site In Sudan

At the end of last August, scholars from the ancient ruins of Jabal Maragha, in Sudan, reported that the archaeological site was invaded and looted by a group of illegal gold miners who carried out excavation operations to gain access to the set of treasures hidden in the Bayouda desert, about 270 kilometers from the capital Khartoum.

Image Source Smithsonian Magazine

The nearly 2,000-year-old archaeological site was found to have deteriorated, with a huge ditch 17 meters deep and almost 20 meters long. Along the hole, five men were identified operating on the site, controlling two high-performance mechanical excavators. The result was a marked erosion of historic territory that had been studied since 1999 by Sudanese experts.

Image Source BBC News Afrique

Image Source Smithsonian Magazine

Archaeologists immediately alerted the police about the invasion of Jabal Maragha. Unfortunately, when the looters were taken to the police station, they were released and escaped serving time for their illegal activities. “They should have been put in prison and their machines confiscated,” reported antique expert Mahmoud al-Tayeb. “There are laws.”

You may not know this but Sudan actually has many ancient sites which includes pyramids.

Image Source BBC News Afrique

Vandalism in Sudanese sites

It is so sad to see that of about a thousand known sites in Sudan, at least 100 have been destroyed or damaged. As a result of the lack of security and encouragement on the part of authorities and businessmen linked to the branches of mineral wealth, Sudanese archaeologists start to suffer losses that not even the gold money covers, both due to the costs of resuming research and the loss of historical heritage .

Sai is an island in the famous Nile river and home to 100s of ancient graves but sadly most have been destroyed by tomb raiders.

Currently, Sudan is the third largest gold producer in Africa, even generating revenue of US $ 1.2 billion for the government. The price of such recognition increases as looters and financiers of illegal excavations are attracted by the material hidden in the ruins, contributing to a practice that has been increasing in recent years.

The extraction of gold in Sudan

The extraction of gold has been going on since ancient times in Sudan, when men went down to the bowels of the earth to extract gold nuggets. But for a long time, no chemicals were used. Furthermore, in the last decades, only professional companies were responsible for this work and for the subsequent management of chemical waste. In contrast, artisanal mines currently account for 80% of Sudan’s gold production, with two million workers daily. The remaining 20%, that is, 30.3 tonnes in the first half of 2021 according to official data, are extracted by officially registered companies. The miners “handle chemical products withwith hazardous waste, such as mercury, which must be treated by specialized people and in a highly supervised manner, above all, away from homes and water sources”, warns Saleh Ali Saleh, university professor and expert on the subject. – “Years to compensate for the damage” – About 50 kilometers from Banate, a group of prospectors look for gold nuggets in buckets of water filled with rock mixed with mercury. None of them wears protective gear. Among them is Mohammed Issa, 25, who lives in a region 1,600 kilometers away. “When I arrived here, I saw that everyone was doing this and that it was the mine boss himself who brought the mercury to us”, he tells.

In 2019, a few months after the end of the dictatorship military-Islamic group of Omar al-Bashir, the government banned the use of mercury and cyanide in mines. Even today, however, anywhere in Sudan, “we can buy”, the owner of a artisanal mine that employs 95 miners pains. The gold trade – $720 million in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Central Bank – has long been controlled by groups linked to the security services under Bashir’s rule. Trade continues to grow and, with it, environmental damage, warns Saleh. “The consequences are not easily eliminated. Even if we stopped everything today, it would take years to compensate for the damage,” he laments.