Precious stone mined in Badara site

It began during the two decade regime of the exiled former president, Yahya Jammeh whose administration made the mining of minerals and national resources a personal affair, robbing the sector of all transparency in a daring quest for profit that led to the making of the most secretive industry in The Gambia.

Little is actually known or transparent about this sectors contribution to national development. Its regulation and licensing processes became mired in the deep state of the Gambia’s mineral administration which works perfectly behind the scenes to authorize and direct use and exploration  of the country’s largely unknown and meagre resources.

The latter itself is a popular line for those who like to assume that the country has none or very insignificant mineral resources besides current offshore prospecting for  oil, which now has an entire ministry to regulate the industry.

 

Spoiled for his unmatched love for riches that have made little impact in terms of growth, former President Jammeh vastly exploited the industry with secret mining activities in most parts of the country generating millions of dollars for his personal interest.

 

The National Geology Department which is tasked to coordinate, issue licenses for the mining process was largely ignored by the former regime which continued to mine minerals under clandestine conditions.

 

The then director of Geology who was summoned by the Janneh Commission to shed light on the mining activities of the former president told the commission they had no ideas as to natural resources being mined or had never heard of any such activity.

 

Whilst that statement by the geology chief tells of the lack of public research that went into prospecting and study of the country’s natural resources, it also underlines the extent of state secrecy around mining, which was non existent to a population that had no understanding or designs to exploit its naturally occurring inorganic compounds.

The Janneh Commission was established by the Coalition government led by President Adama Barrow in 2017 immediately after the change of regime with the main objectives of investigating the financial activities of former President Jammeh and his cronies.

The commission led by chairman Sourahata Janneh did visit one of the secret mining sites of the former president in Badari Upper River Region near Basse, which was reported to have been covertly exploited by former president Jammeh for several years.

The delegation visited the site in February 2018 as part of a tour of various locations in the country related to the financial dealings of the former President and his close associates.

The delegation conducted a tour of the site and was briefed by the villagers on what was actually mined in secret for years by men working for the former president with heavy security around the site. The chairman and his delegation also visited the site’s custodian, Tamba Ginka who discovered the area upon his return from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

‘When I returned from Freetown, Sierra Leone, I discovered the mining site and wanted to introduce it to former President Jammeh on several occasions but I could not. So, I told Lt Col Solo Bojang about the area to see what could be done to exploit the minerals in the interest of the country,’ the eighty-year-old man at the time told the Commission Chairman and his delegation who visited him at his home village in Badari.

After introducing the site to Jammeh, Mr Ginka said samples of ‘precious stones’ were taken for tests to ascertain their nature. The old prospector claimed that stones extracted from the site were similar to those mined in Freetown.

The site’s custodian Mr Ginka accused the former President of betrayal for taking full charge of the site, which he placed under the control of the then General Saul Badjie and Lt Col Bojang despite promising to have equal shares with him.

“Jammeh said I should have equal shares with him even though the site was neither discovered by him nor sold to him. I was afraid to pursue the matter because of fear. Since then, I never went to the site because of the former president. [And despite his promise], I have never benefited from what has been mined. Look at my house. He did not do anything for me,” Mr Ginkan told the delegation during the visit to his compound.

The villagers according to the alkalo of the settlement, Muhammad Manneh were banned from visiting the site and had not received any benefits from Jammeh.

“The site was protected by military officers and the villagers were denied access. They [Jammeh’s men] normally come with trucks to transport the mineral to Banjul between midnight and 1am,” he told the delegation.

Largely left out of the loop, the Geological Department of The Gambia could not ascertain what was actually being mined, but an official who testified before the commission, informed that samples of the said “precious stones” were sent for testing and once the report is ready, the public will be informed.

The result of those tests and anticipated report is still unknown to the public with national mining activities still under wraps away from the public domain.

In late 2018, the current government of President Barrow singlehandedly issued a license to a private contractor, GACH GLOBAL to mine the sites. This has increased secrecy around mineral mining with the company’s activities also remaining unknown to the public.

GACH GLOBAL is a joint partnership venture being managed by Gambian businessman Abubakarr Jawara who has partners in Angola and China.

The ALKAMBA TIMES has tried to contact the Chief Executive Officer of GACH GLOBAL and the Department of Geology to ascertain whether due processes was followed in the issuance of a license to contractors as well as revenues generated from the industry, without success.

However, when The ALKAMBA TIMES further contacted officials at the Geology Department, they were said to be busy in a meeting and promised to get back to us.

Questions over mining activities and their regulation by authorities will continue in the absence of due transparency with many citizens concerned about the lack of proper legal procedures to ensure communities benefit from minerals being mined from there areas. The continued lack of communications in the sector leaves many wondering about the measure of national resources being gobbled up without public knowledge.

During the investigation, the Janneh Commission established that millions of dollars were generated from the black sand and heavy mineral concentrate {HMC} in the Kombo settlements of Sanyang and Tujereng by mineral mining firms APAM and GAMICO which exported to China under the directive of former president Jammeh.

Communities in these villages have not gained any financial benefits nor royalty fees as contributions from mining activities with the state at the time only causing severe environmental havoc leaving residents with limited land to conduct farming activities

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Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.

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