Bor — South Sudan's Jonglei state residents have started illegal gold mining and smuggling into neighbouring Ethiopia for sale to make ends meet, a local government official said Thursday.
Logudo Johnson speaks during the interview in Bor, March 28, 2013 (ST)
The practice, Johnson Logudo told Sudan Tribune, has improved peoples' living standards, despite its illegality.
He said gold smuggling is mainly common among the Kachipo; a minority tribe living in Jonglei eastern border with Ethiopia.
The group, he added, largely depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihood.
"Whatever little gold we get, we first of course sell it for money and then buy cloths", said Logudo, stressing that the gold market was at its border with Ethiopia.
Landlocked South Sudan, which became independent in July 2011, possesses large mineral deposits, which remain largely unexploited. Gold spots, in the country, official says, stretch from its Eastern Equatoria state, which borders Kenya and Uganda, to eastern Jonglei's hilly areas and valleys of Boma, where the kachipo, Jie and Ngalam communities live.
It remains unclear how much quantities of the mineral are smuggled by residents annually, with cases of illegal gold dealings, reported last year in Kenya and Uganda by Eastern Equatoria residents.
With an economy largely dependent on oil revenues, South Sudan looks towards diversifying into other sectors, such as agriculture and other non-oil resources to enhance its financial base.