Sudanese gold mining firm linked to Wagner Group ceases operations

A Sudanese gold mining firm associated with the Russian mercenary Wagner Group has halted its operations due to the ongoing conflict in North Africa.

Al-Sawlaj Gold Mining Co. has been shuttered since mid-April and its Russian staff have been evacuated, Huweyda Mursal, a legal adviser to the company, said by phone.

The company owns a gold-tailing processing facility situated near Atbara, a city located 280 kilometres (174 miles) to the north of the capital, Khartoum.

“Our factory near Atbara in the River Nile state has been shut down because of the war and there are no exports of gold since then,” she said. “There are some efforts to resume our work, especially if the war slows down.”

Sudan witnessed the outbreak of clashes five months ago as enduring tensions between the army and the Rapid Support Forces escalated into a fight for dominance over the nation.

The conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals and the displacement of millions from their residences, the UN has reported.

In 2021, Al-Sawlaj acquired a gold tailing-processing facility from Meroe Gold for $1.8 million. Meroe Gold, registered in Sudan, had been sanctioned by the US Treasury the year before due to its alleged connections with Wagner.

In February, the European Council stated that Al-Sawlaj was linked to Meroe, which it characterized as a “cover entity for the Wagner Group’s operations in Sudan.”

The European Council did not explicitly impose sanctions on Al-Sawlaj, and the company refutes any affiliation with the Russian group.

Gold has served as a significant source of revenue for the Sudanese government through various companies, including Australia’s Perseus Mining Ltd. and Dubai-based Alliance for Mining Co.

However, the overwhelming majority of its gold production is illicitly transported out of the country, frequently to foreign processing facilities, according to Sudan’s Finance Ministry.

Since the conflict began on April 15, the country has produced approximately 2 tons of gold, as reported by the Sudanese Mineral Resources Co.

In the previous year, Sudan officially exported 34.5 tons of gold valued at over $2 billion.

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