Sudan to produce 50 tonnes of gold this year, earning $2.5 bln
* Sudan boosts gold to offset loss of most oil reserves
* Sudan, Saudi Arabia to tap gold, copper in Red Sea
By Ulf Laessing
KHARTOUM, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Sudan expects to produce around 50 tonnes of gold this year, earning $2.5 billion, its mining minister said, as the country seeks to offset the loss of most oil reserves when South Sudan became independent last year.
Sudan is boosting production of gold and other minerals to gain new sources of state income and of foreign currency needed to fund imports. Output of 50 tonnes could potentially make it Africa's third largest gold miner behind South Africa and Ghana, and push it into the top 15 producers globally.
Mining Minister Kamal Abdellatif also said production at a joint project with Saudi Arabia to tap gold, silver and copper reserves in the Red Sea between the two countries would probably start in 2014.
Inside Sudan, the government has already licensed more than 85 companies to explore for gold in more than 120 locations, Abdellatif told an Arab mining conference in Khartoum on Tuesday.
Seven firms had reached the production stage so far and the number would double by the end of the year, he added.
"Till yesterday we reached 41 tonnes of gold," Abdellatif told reporters on the conference sidelines. He said that in 2013, gold production would be similar to this year's projected level of around 50 tonnes. Continued...