Carl Odera | Reuters
(Reuters) – South Sudan is rich in gold and has probably also reserves in other minerals such as copper, uranium and clay which it hopes to exploit with the help of investors, a senior mining official said.
South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, wants to attract mining investment to kickstart development in the African republic, one of the world’s least developed countries after decades of civil war with Khartoum ended in 2005.
Juba is trying to diversify the economy away from oil which used to make up 98 percent of the budget until South Sudan shut down its output of 350,000 barrels per day a year ago during a row with Sudan over export fees.
Both countries agreed in September to resume cross-border flows but they still have to secure their disputed border first.
To attract mining investment the government is trying to get funding from donors to do more mapping to get reserve estimates, a difficult task in a country the size of France where only 300 km (190 miles) of paved roads exist.
South African firm New Kush has done some airborne exploration in Eastern Equatoria state bordering Kenya and Uganda, according to the mining ministry. Two other firms have done some mapping in the area of Galji, Gungu and Papa, 40 kilometres west of the capital Juba.
“We have not reached the level of quantifying, but we are sure that there are minerals in South Sudan, the most of which is gold, gold appears to be so abundant in every part of the South (Sudan),” said Arkangelo Okwang Oler, director general for mineral development in the ministry of petroleum and mining.
“There (also) are indications of radiations…and indication of minerals like uranium,” he told Reuters late on Thursday.
There were also indications of copper in some of the areas and industrial minerals including clays, micas and marble, Oler said.
He said a mining bill had been passed by both chambers of parliament but still needed to be signed by President Salva Kiir. “It will be very soon,” he said.
According to a copy of the bill seen by Reuters, holders of the existing 42 exploration licences signed before independence will have 60 days to renew their licence on a priority basis.
Mining licence will initially be allocated for a maximum of 25 years on a renewable basis, and the government has the right to acquire a maximum of 15 percent of a concession.
“As far as the number of people wanting to carry out exploration in South Sudan, we have a very big interest, we have seen it already, a number of companies trying to ask about South Sudan,” Oler said.