How Gambia’s ex-dictator dominated the poor nation’s mining industry

How Gambia’s ex-dictator dominated the poor nation’s mining industry

Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh was just a totalitarian ruler, who was also an astute businessman with ideas of a hostile takeover of businesses.

Although Jammeh’s decision has cost his country millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements, it racked him millions more personally.

Jammeh took hold of the country’s mining sector, declined to report gains as government revenue and diverted the funds into accounts that he uses as he pleased.

He operated secret mining facilities across the country. But how did Jammeh come to make all these discoveries and take over the mining industry?

Yahya Jammeh is an enigma of a different caliber. A master coupist. Jammeh attracted businesses to come explore the country’s minerals. The unsuspecting mining companies will be easily registered and issued licenses on the orders of the shrewd ruler.

They get to skip all the bureaucratic red tapes. They will start exploring and subsequently mining and exporting the minerals.

But before exportation starts, they have to submit the location coordinates and details of minerals to Geology Department, which Jammeh has put under his office.

Failing to send this data to Mr. Jammeh means they will have their licenses revoked. Sending it to him, however, means he now knows what is available onsite and will kick the company out and take over.

When the mining companies are lured in, they come with their equipment and when they kicked out, the equipment is there for Mr. Jammeh and his cronies to use.

This is how Jammeh exploited a handful of companies and discovered several sites were Gambia has special stones. The sites, including one in eastern Gambia’s Basse region, was kept a complete secret.

At least 50,000 tons of minerals worth more than $7.75 million (D310 million dalasis) were taken to refineries in mainland China in the last two years of Jammeh’s rule.

In 2015, Gambia at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes lost to Carnegie after the company sued the country for illegal termination of a contract.

The award was about US$23 million (D920 million) favoring the company in a spat over its revoked license and expropriated mining assets.

Gambia settled out of court with Canergie Mineral, a company that Jammeh expelled and took over their business. He handed the Carnegie business to APAM, his company he operated with Tony Ghattas.

Jammeh’s company used Carnegie’s equipment and other resources left behind. Jammeh made other companies invest, only for him to kick them out and use their resources.

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