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GACH black sand mining in Sanyang, The Gambia


Description:

In 2018, The Gambian government issued a mining license to Gambia Angola China (GACH) Mining Company to mine black sand, which has high concentrations of zircon, silica, and quartz, in Sanyang village, Kombo South. GACH allegedly also carries out undisclosed black sand mining in nearby villages Batokunku and Kitty. The company has a controversial history, as it also imports guns into the country with support from the Police Force despite firearms being severely restricted [1]. Sand mining itself is also controversial in The Gambia owing to a history of governmental impunity for resource exploitation under the formal dictatorial regime of ex-president Jammeh [2]. Killings took place at Faraba Banta. More about The Gambia’s overall history of sand mining is available at: https://ejatlas.org/conflict/carnegie-zircon-mining-the-gambia

GACH’s mining projects encroach upon and sometimes demolish subsistence gardens and rice farms without local consent, especially affecting women, whose families are often entirely dependent on their subsistence activities. The mining threatens hundreds of women’s gardens, where they have been working for over two decades. The environmental consequences of the mining include destroying the forest cover, disrupted water levels, saltwater intrusion, and more [1, 4]. The land changes as well as mining demolition also damage traditional fences for their land [1].

Consequently, it has become dangerous for the women to farm and their crops are destroyed owing to wild animals no longer being kept away [4].

Although the women, with support of local organizations such as Kitty One Organisation for Poverty Alleviation (KOOPA) have been outspoken against the mining, their pleas to the government have gone unheard, as the Brikama Area Council (BAC) continues to deny that there is any mining occurring on their land or that they ever issued the mining license to begin with [1]. In November 2020, Sanyang women filed complaints against GACH for damages to their fields to the Village Development Committee of Sanyang (VDC), asking for financial compensation. As one of the women, Isatou Gibba, explained, “The intrusion of salt water into my rice farm is a result of a water channel created by the company to allow easy transportation of a drilling machine to a different location for mining … What we are only seeking as for now is to be compensated financially by the company because we cannot regain what has already been destroyed by the mining company” [4]. In response, GACH head of operations Kawsu Jatta promised that all the women would be compensated, but this has yet to happen [4]. Moreover, GACH CEO Jawara refuted claims that the mining did any damage to the women’s farmland, calling the claims “baseless,” “unnecessary blame,” and “character assassination” [5]. The VDC also implied that the “women were complaining or trying to tarnish the image of GACH,” denying ever having received the women’s complaints [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:GACH black sand mining in Sanyang, The Gambia
Country:Gambia, The
State or province:Kombo South
Location of conflict:Sanyang
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Zircon

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Gambia Angola China (GACH) Mining Company, founded in 2017, is a Gambian-owned company headed by Abubakary Jawara, who is also the Gambian consul general to China. It primarily exports black sand to China at $200 per ton [2, 3].

Level of Investment:1,500,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2018
Company names or state enterprises:Gambia Angola China Mining Company from Gambia, The
Relevant government actors:Brikama Area Council (BAC), Village Development Committee of Sanyang (VDC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kitty One Organisation for Poverty Alleviation (KOOPA)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Migration/displacement
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The black sand mining continues with impunity as the women's pleas for compensation after their farmland was destroyed continue to go unheard. Many women are no longer able to continue living on their land and have since been displaced elsewhere.

Sources & Materials

[1] The Chronicle. Kitty Women Gardeners Fear the Worst as GACH Global Mining Activities Intensify (Manneh 2019)
https://www.chronicle.gm/kitty-women-gardeners-fear-the-worst-as-gach-global-mining-activities-intensify/

[2] The Fatu Network. Gambia Government Issues License To GACH Mining Company To Export Black Sand (2018)
https://fatunetwork.net/gambia-government-issues-license-to-gach-mining-company-to-export-black-sand/

[3] The Point. Gov’t issues licence to GACH Mining Company to export black sand (2018)
http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/govt-issues-licence-to-gach-mining-company-to-export-black-sand

[4] The Point. Sanyang women rice farmers demand compensation from GACH (Jobe 2020)
https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/headlines/sanyang-women-rice-farmers-demand-compensation-from-gach

[5] Joroyaa. GACH denies destroying rice fields in Sanyang (Manneh 2020)
https://foroyaa.net/gach-denies-destroying-rice-fields-in-sanyang/

Meta information

Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update08/01/2021

Images

 

Black sand mining

Photo: The Chronicle

Saltwater intrustion

Photo: The Point

Sanyang farm with damaged fence

Photo: The Point