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Darfur's Gold Rush Spurs Violence, Instability, and Humanitarian Crisis
WASHINGTON – The Sudanese government's interest the unprecedented level of gold production from the Jebel 'Amer area of North Darfur – where workers and rescuers recently died in multiple mine collapses – has spurred state-sponsored violence and displacement, argues a new report by the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project.
The report, which draws on extensive interviews and DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, challenges Khartoum's characterization of violence in the region as "inter-tribal" battles.
Report co-author Omer Ismail, a Sudanese activist on Darfur and a senior adviser to the Enough Project, stated:
"The Sudanese government asserts that Darfur is beset by 'inter-tribal' tensions that inevitably result in violence. However, the evidence shows that Khartoum systematically spurs these clashes by sponsoring militias and taking sides. This year alone, we've seen government forces exacerbate clashes by backing the Abbala versus the Beni Hussein; the Beni Halba versus the Gimr; and the Taaysha versus the Salamat. Government-armed Abbala militias' recent power play to control North Darfur's gold mines represents a continuation of state-sponsored atrocity and plunder."
Co-author Akshaya Kumar, an Enough Project policy analyst, stated:
"Ten years after the genocide began; state-sponsored violence has once more taken hold of the region. Cash-strapped and dollar-starved, Sudan sees gold as its new oil. The recent gold discoveries are fueling atrocities again in Darfur. More than five times as many people were displaced in the first few months of 2013 than in the entirety of 2012."
DigitalGlobe satellite imagery featured in the report illustrates the major influx of thousands of artisanal miners into Jebel 'Amer, North Darfur, between February 2012 and January 2013, as well as confirming major displacement, consistent with U.N. reports that by April 2013, more than 150,000 people have been displaced due to the recent fighting. In December 2012, Sudan's minerals ministry declared that 4,000 new gold mines, which yielded approximately $2.2 billion in 2012, are operating in the Jebel Amir area.
"Most of the gold from Darfur has been produced by unlicensed, artisanal mines, which are difficult for Khartoum to tax," explained Kumar. "This helps explain the government's drive to consolidate control over the mines."
Following the regional violence in January and February, which displaced some 150,000 miners and their families, the governor of North Darfur banned mining in the Jebel 'Amer area. However, many mines continued to operate.
On April 29, Sudanese officials – including Jebel 'Amer District Chief Haroun al-Hassan — initially reported that at least 60 workers died there in two collapses of a gold mine shaft that descended 131 feet (40m). On May 6, Sudan's state-owned SUNA news agency sharply revised the estimated number of casualties downward to five deaths and five injuries. However, miners who had been on the scene during the disaster and failed rescue efforts reported to the Agence France-Presse wire service that more than 100 workers were trapped and killed when several mines close together collapsed, and that nine rescuers also disappeared when the ground crumbled underneath them.
Read the report, Darfur's Gold Rush: State-Sponsored Atrocities 10 Years After the Genocide: http://enoughproject.org/files/Darfur_Gold_Rush.pdf