Gambia’s minerals mined secretly by the country’s ousted despot were shipped to China, as the Southeast Asian nation’s commitment to mining in Africa deepens.
Despite commodity prices falling dramatically between 2011 and 2016, ex-President Yahya Jammeh shipped at least 90-40ft containers filled with rutile, zircon, and ilmenite to China.
More than 50,000 tons of minerals worth at least $7.75 million (D310 million dalasis) were taken to refineries in mainland China in the last two years of Jammeh’s rule.
Jammeh broke relations with Taiwan and started lobbying to resume diplomatic relations with Beijing in 2013, just one year after he started his off-book mining operations.
Jammeh’s forceful takeover of the mining industry in The Gambia came at a time when a more than twenty-five fold jump in China’s investment in Africa in fewer than 10 years.
That’s how fast China is gaining control over Africa’s mining industry and Beijing’s push is not ending anytime soon, experts say.
China’s commitment to mining in Africa is apparent from all the deals it is making across the continent. Only last November Chinese state-owned mining company Shandon Iron and Steel revealed it will invest $700 million in an iron ore processing plant in Sierra Leone.
The World Bank’s latest commodities forecast confirmed that prices are climbing due to strong Chinese demand and low levels of supply. Jammeh’s APAM received an additional $10 per ton, which was intended for royalties to the government.
Jammeh deliberately made rash and unpredictable changes to Gambia’s mining policies, creating regulatory uncertainty and harming investor confidence. It gave him and his associates monopoly over the industry.
Gambia’s new government says it committed to the principle of shared prosperity and responsible investment in the mining sector. It is urging investors to seize the opportunity to partner with its citizens and work meaningfully in their operations.
China’s growing economy is thirsty for sustainable supplies of mineral resources. Despite being the number one mining nation in the world, China is facing a rapid depletion of its local mineral resources.
In order to overcome shortages of essential mineral commodities, as well as to secure long-term sustainable supplies for its ambitious economic development strategy, the Government of China empowered and encouraged a number of domestic state-owned and private companies to actively pursue mining deals throughout the world.
As China’s modern-day “Scramble for Africa” to buy up the continent’s mineral wealth enters a new phase, it saw the coming of a Chinese firm, Shanghai Mining Company to The Gambia, in which Jammeh’s APAM holds a significant share.