It is also a tempting but dangerous occupation for residents of Sudan's poverty-stricken western region of Darfur which has been devastated by a decade of civil war, inter-tribal fighting and other violence.
A humanitarian source said earlier this year that close to 70 000 people were digging for gold in Jebel Amir.
Beni Hussein refused to pay newly imposed government mining fees which amounted to "huge, huge money", a humanitarian source told AFP at the time.
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At least 90 percent of Sudan’s population is Muslim, and sharia is the source of the nation’s legislation. state department has listed Sudan as a country of particular concern due to religious freedom violations. International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need noted in its 2016 Religious Freedom Report that Sudan’s constitution was amended to “widen and increase” the power of the National Intelligence and Security Services, which has impacted “human resources issues and the prosecution of individuals, media outlets and organizations for alleged breaches of the law.” Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List ranked Sudan eighth in a list of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.
Apostasy from Islam is punishable by the death penalty. Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for alleged apostasy from Islam, was evacuated from her Sudanese homeland in July 2014.
Sudan is trying to boost exports of the precious metal and other non-petroleum products after the separation of South Sudan two years ago left Khartoum without three-quarters of its crude oil production.