Dozens of battered trucks laden with gold-bearing ore snake their way across the desert in northeastern Sudan and dump their loads at a compound on the outskirts of the town of Atbara.

The tons of ore, extracted by small-scale miners in River Nile state, are then moved into a processing plant using diggers and conveyor belts. Only a handful of insiders are privy to how much gold the tightly guarded operation produces, who it is sold to or where it ends up because no public records are available.

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