Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Who owns the mines and who keeps the proceeds?

Mining as Kartong 
There are two types of mining operations going on in the Kombos and perhaps in other parts of the Upper River Division of the country - sand and mineral mining - both types of mining activities occurring in the Kombos.  Mineral mining is reportedly taking place in the Basse area but we are yet to confirm it.

What is known is that both the sand and mineral mining taking place in Kartong and other areas of the Kombos is having a devastating environmental effect on the communities which, in turn, is impacting, negatively, on the living standards on residents who are already on the fringes of the poverty line.

As a consequent of the devastation, which you can read here, environmental activists in Kartong through the Environmental Concern Group of Kartong drew attention to the plight of the community by launching an appeal to the authorities to take remedial measures to mitigate the problem - a story you can find here. 

In response, the regime, through the Geology Unit, which has always been part of the Physical Planning Department of the Ministry for Local Governments and Lands but now part of the Office of the President, has denied reports that the mining activities are affecting the village's vegetable gardening activities.

Both local newspapers and this blog have reported on the issue.  We have paid particular attention to the environmental damage done and to the economic and financial cost to the area and residents.

This led us to continue to press the regime of Yaya Jammeh to be transparent in its handling of these mining activities, shrouded in secrecy since the advent of the messy case involving Carnegie Mineral (Gambia) Ltd which ultimately led to legal litigation that will potentially end up costing the Gambian taxpayer over $ 22 million.  You can read that here.

Given the potentially huge cost to the public treasury that Jammeh's mishandling of the mining sector, it is important for the government to provide the Gambian people with a true account of who owns what and how are the proceeds handled.  The same applies to the petroleum sector which is equally shrouded in secrecy and where public disclosure is needed as well.  

A member of the opposition National Reconstruction Party did ask the Finance Minster during the last Budget Session about the treatment of the mining revenue generated because it was not shown in the budget.  Initially, the Minister conveniently evaded the question.  We did blog on that issue too, here.  However, he volunteered a response after the session that the mining revenue go to the Geology Unit, to Local or Area Councils and to the National Environment Agency and not to the Consolidated Fund as should be expected.

Who owns the mines and who keeps the proceeds are two important questions that must be responded to, in the interest of transparency, especially for a regime that seized power promising Gambians transparency, accountability and probity.  If the Minister of Finance's response is correct - we question the truthfulness of his responses - the revenue sharing method and formula he described are marked and substantial departure from conventional budgeting practices.

We continue to insist that proceeds from mining activities must be properly accounted for and lodged in the proper public accounts - if these mines are publicly owned - and if not, full disclosure of private ownership must be made by Yaya Jammeh which must include details of all contracts. The people are entitled to know what their government is doing in their name.