African gold producer Sudan has handed out 50 more licenses to 73 firms to explore gold and other minerals, state news agency SUNA said on Sunday.
Sudan is trying to expand its small gold production to compensate for the loss of most of its oil reserves to South Sudan which became independent in July.
The new licenses allow gold exploration in around eleven states, Minerals Minister Abdelbagi Gailani Ahmed told SUNA, adding that now seven firms were producing gold. The rest is still at the exploration stage.
To date, Sudan has handed out around 200 gold exploration licenses.
Ahmed reiterated Sudan would build at the start of next year a refinery with capacity of 150 tons of gold and 30 tons of silver.
In total, Sudan expects to produce about 70 tons of gold in 2011, he said. Only an estimated 6 to 7 tons gold will come from regular mines. The rest is being produced by more than 200,000 local Sudanese attracted by a gold rush whose exact output is hard to verify.
(Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)