At the age of four, Taleb can neither walk nor see. The underground gold that was supposed to enrich his village has ruined his health according to his mother.
Their Banat village has suffered extreme pollution due to mercury, cyanide and other agents that are harmful to humans and the environment.
“When she turned two years old, we found out that she could not sit down. At first, I would lift her up, and when I put her on the bed, she would sit down. A while later, she became heavier, so she could not keep upright anymore. Even though her health appeared excellent, her body was dysfunctional,” said Awad Ali, a resident of the village of Banat.
Today, artisanal mines account for 80% of Sudan’s gold production. Every day, two million Sudanese work in 16 of the country’s 18 provinces.
The remaining 20% or 30.3 tons in the first half of 2021 was is extracted by officially registered companies according to official figures.
“This (artisanal mining) has a very big impact on the soil and its use in many places, especially in agricultural areas, forests, and even in the desert. There is now a lot of destruction, huge physical destruction within the lands. We’ve got very large deep pits and large quantities of mining waste. Unfortunately, it is very hard to deal with all these pits from an environmental point of view, the actual treatment is very difficult,” said Saleh Ali, professor at Neelain University’s Faculty of Petroleum and Minerals.
In January, researchers tested the drinking water in Banate: the concentration of mercury there reached a national record. And they also found mercury in the urine and blood of the inhabitants.
“Currently, there is a huge problem facing the residents of these places, and that’s the presence of large quantities – thousands of tonnes of waste or mining residues – among residential and agricultural areas,” said Ali Mohamed Ali, head of the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society.