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STRENGTHS: This part of the Eastern Sahara Desert and the Arabian Shield has the greatest potential for metallogenic deposits. The basalt intrusions, Figure 1, have been shown to host world class polymetallic deposits, Figure 2, such as Sukari in Egypt, Bisha in Eritrea and Jabal Sayid in Saudi Arabia.
Figure 1: Basalt intrusion in the Eastern Sahara Desert
Figure 2: A polymetallic deposit from the area
From historical times, dating back many millennia, ancient Egyptians came to this region in search of gold, Figure 3.
Figure 3: Ancient Egyptian grave in Sudan, proving mining for gold dating back millennia While regions such as the Bushveldt Complex in South Africa, the Zambian Copperbelt and the West African greenstone belts have been well prospected and mapped, this part of the country remains “relatively unexplored”, by comparison. With this in mind, the rewards can be bountiful for minimal expenditure. 1. Systematic Approach: A dedicated and systematic approach to mineral prospecting needs to be conducted. Knowledge of the region is a prerequisite for success. This could save vital time and expense. Drilling rates are still about half the rate that of Central Africa. 2. Government Engagement: It is only prudent that the government of Sudan be given part ownership of such ventures. This will help to streamline, and expedite, regulatory processes. In addition, having a senior government official sit on the board will help to fast-track importation, governmental approval and administration issues. 3. Engage and Train Local Labour Force: There is a plethora of trained Sudanese graduates on the market. These graduates lack the vital industrial exposure. Mining ventures can engage them and train them up as part of the succession planning process. The Sudanese worker is cheaper than expat labour, he/she understands the psyche of the local labour force and they can communicate effectively in the local language. They will be more effective in motivating the local labour force than their expat counterparts. In addition, the Sudanese worker will be here for the long haul. Their enthusiasm for learning and gaining experience is unprecedented. The expat worker, on the other hand, will be ready to desert and leave once a better opportunity arises! An older and experienced expat workforce could provide the right demographic mix to achieve this. Apart from being patient, the challenge of training inexperienced workers will motivate such older expats than their younger counterparts. This demographic mix ought to be factored into the engagement and hiring process.
4. Engage and Develop Local Communities: The opportunity to bring development to the local community could become a strength to show the outside world one’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. Building schools, medical clinic and roads will instill confidence in the foreign investor who will jump at the opportunity to invest in a mining venture of this nature. This could be the strength needed to find vital funding for such enterprise. With the proliferation of satellite television, cell phones and travel outside of their areas, such communities already know the benefits that could be gained. 5. Untapped Metallogenic Region: As opposed to the well explored and mined out metallogenic regions in Africa, this part of Sudan has the strength of being untapped and bountiful for the right calibre of investor. WEAKNESSES: 6. Young and Inexperienced Labour Force: Having not been exposed to organized mining, the labour force is relatively inexperienced. It could take 2-3 years to develop local workers to the required international standards. The accountability must be on every expat worker to transfer knowledge to the local labour force. It must be written into their contract that “knowledge transfer and local development” are integral parts of their engagement. The immigration ministry must conduct a mid-term interview to ascertain if that expat worker has been fulfilling those accountabilities. Should they fail, they should be terminated and discharged. 7. Uneducated Nomadic and Tribal Workforce: The nomadic and tribal people of the area need to benefit from the venture. Admittedly, most members of the community has undergone limited formal education. However, astute mine management can find practical roles in the trades function to engage the workers and gradually develop their skills. In West Papua province of Indonesia, mining companies run evening classes to develop the educational skills of the tribal groups. 8. Health, Safety, Environmental and Hygiene of the Local Workers: Being predominantly nomadic, Health, Safety, Environmental and Hygiene issues have been low priority for the local community. Regular campaigns of short lectures with copious visual aids and case studies will be required to achieve this essential paradigm shift. 9. Developmental Sinking Fund: The community needs to see that they are reaping the benefit from such venture. A sinking fund, comprising a small percentage of the venture’s profit (say 1-2%) ought to be set aside for this purpose. This fund should not be used for consumption but to educate bright students outside of the area in a field that could be beneficial to the mining venture. The state and central governments need to be approached with this proposal so that such amount be deducted from mineral royalty or corporate taxation.
10. Ongoing Sanctions from Western Countries: The ongoing sanctions from the west is affecting development in Sudan. Apart from the availability of raw materials and capital equipment, such sanctions are adding to the cost of importing such requisites. To circumvent such sanctions, subsidiary companies need to be floated in places such as Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Mumbai in India. Such companies will cut out the unscrupulous middle-men and will help to obliterate the trail leading directly to supply of raw materials and equipment to Sudan. OPPORTUNITIES: 11. Governmental Support: Sudan needs to exploit its natural resources. A mining venture in this part of the country will be embraced by the central government, as did Jabal Sayid in Saudi Arabia, Figure 4.
Figure 4: Jabal Sayid plant in Saudi Arabia, note similarity of the terrain to that of Sudan 12. Collaboration with Institutions of Higher Learning: Universities will be delighted for their graduates and undergraduates to gain the vital industrial exposure a venture of this type will offer. This will forge a long lasting relationship which will develop professionals capable of serving the entire Sudan. 13. Outsourcing Services to the Local Community: Certain services and tasks can be outsourced to the local community. In so doing, they can be taught business ethics and acumen. This way they will be brought out of their nomadic lifestyle into the 21st century. Typical examples being mine security and the manufacturing of safety overalls.
14. Buying Produce from the Local Community: Livestock and other produce from the local community which can be used by the venture will help in cash generation within the community. At an opportune time, NGO’s can then teach the members of the community basic business shills such as managing their finances and calculating profit. Such attributes could bring the once nomadic societies into the mainstream of Sudanese life. 15. Regulatory Processes: Sudan, being a fledgling mining country, has not got stringent environmental and mining regulations in place. Because of this, investors should see it as an opportunity to commence a mining venture then help the governmental organisations to develop such systems. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) in a mature mining country could take up to 9 months to get approval, at a cost of 5% of the entire project. This is a lucrative opportunity. However, it is the responsibility of every venture of this nature to carry out mining in a responsible manner, Figure 5.
Figure 5: Water source of nomadic tribes that will require protection despite the absence of regulations in the country