Sudan signs 10 gold, other mineral mining deals
By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan signed 10 exploration deals for gold and other minerals on Sunday, part of a wider bid to diversify the nation's crude-dependent economy ahead of the expected independence of the oil-producing south in two months.
Mining Minister Abdel Bagi al-Jaylani told Reuters the exploration deals were with Sudanese companies and four international companies from Saudi Arabia, India, Great Britain and China to search for copper, lead, iron, zinc and gold.
"From the beginning of the year up until the end of October, we have mined 23 tonnes of gold," Jaylani said. "Next year I expect to mine not less than 60-65 tonnes," he added.
State news agency SUNA said all the contracts signed on Sunday were for areas in the north of Sudan.
Jaylani said this year Sudan had signed 47 new mining agreements and expected to sign 50 more in 2011 for mining in the three Darfur states, Kassala and Gedaref in the east and the north-south border region of South Kordofan.
"Next year I expect to have good revenues from chromium, building materials -- marble and aggregate -- gold, copper and zinc," he said, but could not give figures.
Sudan's economy has relied on oil for years and other industries have gone to waste because of bad management and decades of multiple civil wars. Much of Sudan's estimated 6 billion barrels of oil reserves lie in the south, which most analysts expect to vote to secede in a January 9, 2011 referendum.
More than 90 percent of Sudan's foreign currency revenue is derived from oil and the south will likely take their share after secession, leaving a gap in Sudan's budget.
Many of Sudan's ministries have been on a drive to increase foreign investment and exports to plug the expected hole in the finances.
For the past year Sudan has been in the throes of a gold rush with informal miners discovering small-scale deposits throughout the country.