By Lamin Sanyang
Gambia’s mineral resources locally called ‘black sand’ has been exploited by the former President Yahya Jammeh and foreign investors over the years at Sanyang Mining Site in the West Coast Region.
Carnegie Minerals, an Australian Mining Company had been operating in The Gambia since 1999, mining mineral sand which were sent abroad. Charlie Northfield, a British national who was in charge of business at the time had issues with the government in 2008. The government revoked their license and sued the company for mining Titanium, Iron Ore and Uranium without giving the true and accurate value to the government and causing a loss of millions.
Gambia’s then Foreign Minister, Crispin Grey-Johnson in a press conference accused the company of taken advantage of the fact that the country does not have laboratories to test what they were exporting by way of deceiving the government. The matter was taken to court and Mr. Northfield was released on bail. He was put under house arrest but allegedly fled the country with the help of a British-based private security firm.
The former Minister of Finance, Mambury Njie was charged with Economic Crime and Neglect of Official Duty in 2014. The charges preferred against him were related to the Carnegie Mineral Company. The high court then acquitted and discharged him, saying there was no evidence to prove an essential element of an offense.
However, the ministry of finance under the new government has made shocking revelations about the fraudulent activities of the former president relating to Carnegie Mineral Project which was alleged to have been mining over the years. The company, it said has opened an account at the Central Bank of The Gambia from January January 24, 2012 to December 30, 2015 receiving over a hundred million as deposits and expenditures.
The Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh, in a press conference said that the account was operated outside the central government budgetary system and not accounted for in the consolidated revenue fund.
“The account has been managed by the Office of the President and Yahya Jammeh and all expenditures were done at his directives or will,” Minister Sanneh said.
The Ministry said there was no deposit into the account from December, 30, 2015.
Meanwhile, the office at Sanyang Mining Site is temporary closed under the watched of The Police Intervention Unit. It is said that the place has not been operating but employees are working at the site.
“The new government has still not visited the site,” a source said.
Subsequent follow up was made to find out the type of minerals that are being produced at the mining site, tones produced daily and what benefit is accrued to the state as revenue. The findings led to one Tony Gattass, a Lebanese business tycoon was said to be the person in charge. Ghatson’s office, ‘AFRISTAR Co. LTD & GHATSON Co. LTD’ is situated opposite The US Embassy. It is in the same complex with NEDI, National Enterprise Development Initiative.
The officials at the company said Mr. Gattass has traveled out of the country, saying he should be back soon. Ghatson used to dodged from questions about the mining site during Jammeh’s era. He would direct it to the geology department which was under the purview of the Office of the President.
When the geology department was visited the secretary said the director was busy but would call back later. The previous directors would make similar excuses during Jammeh’s era. In fact, one of them urged this reporter to write to the Secretary General to authorise him to talk to the press.
Meanwhile, analysts say the new government should look into the mining of minerals especially the sites at Sanyang and Batokunku. There should be transparency and that Gambians deserve the right to know the truth.