11 November 2012

Gettin' by digging gold

Fascinating article by Hez Holland on the artisanal mining business in South Sudan. The numbers sound kind of crazy but then South Sudan is a kind of crazy place. 
Leer Likuam sat on the edge of a shallow trench, puffed his pipe and boasted he once found a 200-gram gold nugget bigger than his thumb ...  
On the international market, Likuam's prize lump would fetch $11,000, an enormous sum in a country where the average teacher earns just 360 South Sudanese pounds, about $90, per month ... 
On an average day he might dig up six grams, worth around 1,200 South Sudanese pounds ($270), he said. "Some days you're lucky."
That seems far too high to really be an average day. Perhaps some more boasting. But then
In the last year alone, Likuam has bought 10 cows, each worth around 1,000 pounds.
Predictably the government is keen to get in on the action and get some big foreign companies in to do some real exploration that they can tax. Given the rather weak relationship between government revenues and public services, I'd like to see some research on the current scale of the industry and how many people are making a living with it, and then what we might expected to see from large commercial mining in terms of both revenues and local employment. One of the key messages from WDR2013: not all jobs are equal for development. 

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