African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 192


The copper mine at Hofret en Nahas, Sudan

Richard Trevor Wilson
  • Richard Trevor Wilson
  • Bartridge House, Umberleigh, EX37 9AS, UK.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 June 2023
  •  Published: 31 July 2023


Copper is the world’s third most important metal after iron and aluminium. It has been used for thousands of years and continues to be an important item in manufacturing, medicine, construction and the electrical industries. The world has enormous reserves of copper ore: It is found in many African countries. Sudan has considerable resources in the Red Sea area and in the southwest of the country but almost none of these has been used to extract copper metal. The Hofret en Nahas mine in southwest Sudan or northwest South Sudan, depending on how local geography is interpreted, has been exploited by artisanal methods for hundreds of years and is important in local culture and to a lesser extent in current times in the local economy. The mine was visited by European explorers from the mid nineteenth century and through to the mid twentieth century by potential entrepreneurs with a view to exploit the mineral. Various analyses have shown that the ore can produce high quality pure metal. Among the many reasons for the mine not being developed are the remoteness of the location, poor and only seasonal access by road, a distance to the railway of more than 200 miles (320 km), lack of a local labour force and difficulties about feeding such a force. In recent years (since 2011) the failure to secure an agreement on the international boundary between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan inhibits any progress towards development of the mine. This diachronic study of more than 170 years of events and activities at Hofret en Nahas covering actual artisanal copper extraction, geographical and geophysical exploration, the cultural setting and the causes of and problems with civil war in the area. As far as can be ascertained the paper is the only synthetic review of these subjects and could form the basis of future studies.


Key words: Darfur, Bahr el Ghazal, chalcopyrite, artisanal exploitation, geographic exploration, geological exploration, cultural value, slavery.