Lured by tales of fortunes made overnight, businessman Amir Tabidi ditched the comfort of Khartoum to spend weeks braving blistering heat, bandits and snakes to hunt for gold in remote Sudanese desert areas.Those prospectors operate in a grey area: they tend to walk across the border to Dubai or Beirut to unload their gold. The Sudanese government is thinking of encouraging them to stop selling gold abroad and to organize them into co-operatives in part to make sure child labour isn't used. Formally known as artisanal miners, these prospectors produce most of the gold that comes from Sudan. For the lucky few, there's a lot of money to be made. Unfortunately, their prospecting is deterring more systematic searches for the metal: there's little point in spending a lot of money if the gold is going to end up being lifted by artisans.
Camped out in the wilderness without electricity or daily showers, Tabidi and his group found nearly 2 kilos of gold (worth nearly $94,000/57,500 pounds) in just two weeks of hunting with metal detectors. That was enough to convince the 34-year-old to make the arduous trip two more times -- joining countless others with similar dreams.
"Sometimes we would arrive at a place at night where there was just nothing there," said Tabidi, who works in his family's gold jewellery business in Khartoum.
"But by 5 a.m. you could start hearing the beep-beep of metal detectors, and by morning the whole area would be filled with people walking around with metal detectors. You'd say -- 'Where did all these people come from?' It was amazing."...
So, the only hope for mining companies is to go underground where artisanal miners can't reach.