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Governmental corruption in sand mining for metals in Kartung, The Gambia

Illegal sand mining endagers villagers's lives in Kartung, Batukunku, Sanyang. The Gambia suffers governmental corruption. Companies such as Carnegie, Gamico, APAM, export to China and do not restore the damaged areas.


Popular protests were  rare in The Gambia, a popular tourist destination that welcomes tens of thousands of foreign visitors every year. The country of 1.8 million, which is surrounded on its three other sides by Senegal, saw Yahya Jammeh rise to power through a military coup in 1994. In 2015-16 there was much unrest including demonstrations against sand mining for metals. The sand mining in Kartung, Batukunku and Sanyang have been the subject of a great corruption scandal involving the former government under Yahya Jammeh´s presidency (deemed as a dictator as he stayed 22 years in power). Investigations show that the permit granted to Carnegie S.A. (in partnership with Astron Limited) was revoked in 2008 in order to benefit Gambian companies´ ventures in relationship or under direct ownership of Yahya Jammeh himself. The mining sites are considered illegal after the departure of Carnegie (see Project details). In the mid-1990s The Gambia decided to not allow sand mining in order to protect its coasts. Yet Carnegie S.A. explored The Gambian coasts and started commercially exploiting the three sand mineral deposits in June 2003, even though “Gambia government’s own geology department in collaboration with the National Environment Agency in a joint impact assessment survey of coastal sand mining identified the practice as one of the biggest threat to the country’s environment.” (1) By the end of 2015, the villagers of Kartung demonstrated asking for the closing down of the illegal mines surrounding their village and they were violently repressed. At least 45 people were arrested and sued, amongst them young people and women (2). By early 2016, Kartung mining site was closed by the National Environment Agency. Yet APAM, operating there, transferred its operation to another deposit, to Sambouya (also in the Kombo South district) (3). Gamico is also involved in the exploitation of Sanbouya mine. By February 2017, miners were still working on Sanyang site (4). The companies came and left one after the other without restoring the sites. They should have replaced the mined sand but instead they left the ditches open. All the involved companies have so violated the National Environmental Management Act which requires to the companies to restore damaged areas. Flooded, the ditches attract the mosquitoes all year-round. The presence of crocodiles has also increased, putting at risk the women cultivating their vegetables´ gardens (5). The Inquiry Commission (set up by the new government in order to investigate the financial issues of the former government of the President Yahya Jammeh) visited the devastated sites in October 2017.  The communities took the opportunity to share with the commission members their concerns for the environment which has not been rehabilitated. The mining operations have triggered the soil erosion, worsen by the sea-level rise and overall, the agricultural activities have been undermined. 

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Governmental corruption in sand mining for metals in Kartung, The Gambia
Country:Gambia, The
State or province:Kombo South District in the Western Division
Location of conflict:Brufut Town
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities: Beach sand minerals: zircon, ilmenite, rutile
Sand, gravel
Titanium ores
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Initially the commercial exploitation started in June 2003, by Carnegie in joint equal venture with Astron Limited. The mining license concerned the mineral sands deposits (ilmenite, rutile and zircon) located near the towns of Batukunku, Kartung and Sanyang. The heavy metals were exported to China. The zircon concentrate was processed on Hainan Island (China) by Astron Advanced Materials Ltd. (AAM) (a subsidiary of Astron Limited). Only the sand, as a byproduct of the operation was sold in The Gambia. By the early 2008, the government of the previous President Yahya Jammeh had given a 24 hours ultimatum to Carnegie to communicate on its activities: what they are mining, the quantities, and the actual international price of tonnage exported (1). The Carnegie´s representatives claimed the company´s adherence to the country´s legal processes. Yet the government revoked the mining license in February 2008 by alleging that the multinational was commercially exploiting minerals outside of the mining license (2). Carnegie S.A. brought the case before international justice, at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The international jurisdiction ruled in favor of the mining multinational, fixing the damages for breach of the mining license to US$18,658,358 (adding also interests, arbitration costs and legal costs). ICSID requested to The Gambia a total of US$24 million to pay to Astron Corporation Limited. By the time ICSID had ruled in favor of Carnegie, Carnegie had been incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Astron, between 2015 and early 2016. By mid-November 2015 the Gambian government was looking for annulling the decision. Only after the departure of the President Yahya Jammeh numerous scandals of corruption blown up. The conditions of Carnegie´s revoked mining license are being elucidated. An inquiry commission was set up by the new government in order to investigate the financial uncertainties of the former government. According to officials from the Geology Department, testifying at the inquiry commission, the former government was willing to mine where Carnegie was mining. According to Mr. Jawo´s testimony, Gamico and Alhamdulillah Petroleum Mineral Company (APAM) submitted their license applications when the Geology Department received letters and orders from the Presidential Office to stop Carnegie from operating. Gamico started exploiting the sites before the departure of Carnegie S.A. and before being granted a permit. It has been documented that Gamico used Carnegie´s left behind equipment. Their license was issued by the former President in August 2015. Both Gamico and APAM were allowed to commercially exploit the mining sites through presidential orders. APAM did never registered its business. Gamico was closely linked to the presidential circles and APAM was owned by the very same President himself! (3) Thus all the mining operations after the departure of Carnegie were illegal since both companies had no official exploitation license. The two companies were exporting the heavy metals to China.

See more
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Astron Ltd. from Australia - Owner of Carnegie
Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd. from Gambia, The
Carnegie Minerals Plc. from United Kingdom - Owner of Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd.
Gamico S.A. from Luxembourg
Alhamdulillah Petroleum Mineral (APAM ) from Gambia, The - Owned by the former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh
Relevant government actors:National Environment Agency (NEA), Geology Department
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Amnesty
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Other Environmental impacts, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsInvasion of the villages by snakes and mosquitoes.
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsEleven year old boy fell down in one of the ditches and died.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Proposal and development of alternatives:Support tourism, preserve the coast from further erosion by not allowing sand mining in the fragile coast.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Need to restore the environment, covering up the ditches, need to prevent further soil erosion, support agriculture, uninstall the heavy machines left behind by the gone companies. The two companies related to the corruption scandals left the sites previously exploited by Carnegie but actually continue their operations and damages in other areas (Sanbouya).
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National Environment Management Act (NEMA)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The mineral industries of The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal, Omayra Bermúdez-Lugo, 2003
[click to view]

Carnegie Corporation Ltd. Report to Shareholders for the Quarter Ended 31st December 2005
[click to view]

Astron awarded $31 million in claim against The Gambia
[click to view]

2009 Minerals Yearbook The Gambia Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal, USGS, 2009
[click to view]

Gambia: Janneh Commission Embarks On Visit At Mining Sites, All Africa, 7/10/2017
[click to view]

Extractive industries, The Gambia, EI Source Book 2917
[click to view]

Carnegie Mineral Case Resumes, 25/09/2009
[click to view]

Kemo Cham, Gambia vs Carnegie Mineral: What are the stakes for the country?, May 2010
[click to view]

Carnegie Minerals Refutes Gambia Government Claims, 22/02/2008
[click to view]

Gambie: une commission d'enquête décortique les comptes de Yahya Jammeh, Rfi Afrique, 18 Aout 2017
[click to view]

Gambia: Following Freedom Newspaper Story on The Expulsion Of An Australian Mining Firm - Government Reacts!! All Africa, January 2008
[click to view]

Gambia: Ex-President Jammeh Accused Of Having A Real Appetite For Money, Amadou Jallow Banjul, 27th September 2017
[click to view]

Gambia: Country Expels Australian Mineral Firm Carnegie, 16 January 2008
[click to view]

Geology Department official testifies at commission, The Point, August 23, 2017
[click to view]

Deadly battle in Senegal for a precious mineral, 05/12/2016
[click to view]

Gambia: Release peaceful protesters and community members arbitrarily detained, 30 November 2015
[click to view]

Gambia gives Carnegie a day to clarify activities, Reuters, 17/01/2008
[click to view]

Gambia: Heavy Fighting Between Protesting Kartong Villagers, Paramilitary Police And Sand Miners Is Going On In The Gambia! 23rd November 2015
[click to view]

Gambie: le business présumé du zircon de l’ex-président Yahya Jammeh, Rfi Afrique, 24 Aout 2017
[click to view]

Commission of inquiry members visit mining, 10/04/2017
[click to view]

(3) Gambia: Alhamdulilai Company in Charge of Mining At Sambouya, All Africa, January 2016
[click to view]

(2) Kartong Sand Mining Crisis Deepens; Villagers Ban Councilor, November 29th, 2015
[click to view]

Gambia: No Documents Were Presented for Apam Mining Licensing, All Africa, 21 August, 2017
[click to view]

(4) Fatou Camara, Gambia’s Mineral Saga, February 27th, 2017
[click to view]

(1) Kartong Youths Brought To Court with marks of torture, November 24th 2015
[click to view]

(5) Climate Change induces disasters, says NEA official, The Point, September 8, 2017
[click to view]

Gambia: The Mining of Minerals At Sanyang of What Benefits to the Workers and the Country? All Africa, 12 Mat 2012
[click to view]

Gambia: Breaking News: Lebanese “Businessman” Tony Ghattas Explains How Jammeh Used Him To Rob Millions From Gambians; Ghatts Helps Jammeh To Export Sand And Other Minerals To China! 23 August 2017
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Devastating effects of sand mining in Gunjur, YouTube video
[click to view]

APAM mining employee Alpha Jallow testifies at the commission of Inquiry, September 2017
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice Team, Camila Rolando Mazzuca
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3199
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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