Gambia unable to account for missing mining millions

Gold mining along the River Gambia as it flows through Southern Senegal draws economic migrants from all over West Africa. The gold bearing sand is filtered and then mixed with mercury to draw the gold out. © Jason Florio

Gambian authorities are unable to determine how much money the country generated from mining activities in the small West African nation.

Tens of millions of dollars are reportedly unaccounted for with the country’s Minister of Finance informing Parliament on Thursday that only $3.5 million (D139.12 million dalasis) was deposited in the mining account of the government.

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh transferred the government department responsible for mining to his office, giving him direct control of the activities and finances of the department.

Jammeh is accused of siphoning billions for personal use, spending more than $147 million in the last three years of his rule.

Minister of Finance Amadou Sanneh indicated that the $3.5 million deposited included revenue supposedly generated from Carnegie Minerals.

Gambia is also suspected of having gold but it has never been reported by the government. Mining is excluded from the country’s financial reports to the Parliament, making corruption in the sector rife.

Astron subsidiary Carnegie kicked off arbitration against the Gambia under the terms of its mining license in 2009, defending its right to mine zircon, ilmenite, and rutile after the nation nixed its license, seized its assets and imprisoned one of its managers, who was accused of illegally mining for titanium, iron ore and uranium.

The tribunal ultimately ruled in Carnegie’s favor in July, finding that the Gambia had no basis to cancel its mining license.

The Gambia now has to pay Carnegie Mineral $23 million covering $18.6 million in damages for breach of the mining license, an interest of slightly more than $993,000, arbitration costs of roughly $445,000 and about $3.3 million for the legal cost.

Jammeh and his associates took total control of the mining sector and authorities have launched a probe into the former leader’s finances and business transactions.

His associates are also being investigated by a commission of inquiry but the names of those being probed have not been released.

What happened to Gambia;s missing millions, including those from mining may not be known and the extensive damage caused seems to be apparently immeasurable.

Jammeh is known to have conducted most of his businesses with cash and at least 95 bank accounts associated with him have also been seized by the Justice Department.

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