Gambia: Govt Expels Australian Mineral Firm Carnegie Minerals plc

Freedom Newspaper (Raleigh, North Carolina)

16 January 2008
Posted to the web 16 January 2008

Landing Badjie

Well placed sources close to Gambia's Department of Petroleum have confirmed the expulsion of an Australian Mineral sands group Company from the country by the President Yahya Jammeh. Carnegie Minerals plc received a Presidential directive to cease operations in the impoverished West African country with immediate effect, the Freedom Newspaper can authoritatively report.

Officials of the Carnegie Minerals were taken aback by Gambia's unilateral decision to send them packing. The Government here is yet to make a public statement about its decision to part with the Australian Mineral Firm. It only sent a terse letter to the Firm asking them to quit operations in The Gambia.

The Firm was supposed to give supporting hands to Gambia's sand mining industry. It was tasked with providing laboratory results on its findings to Government. The Government never allowed the firm to complete its work as required, as they were asked to leave the country without any further delays.

Carnegie officials maintained that they "were in compliance with the terms of its mining license whilst in the country." The Firm's Corporate office has demanded a formal explanation from the authorities in Banjul to shed light about circumstances surrounding of their decision.

Mineral officials in Banjul said the said most projects in The Gambia were hindered due to lack of funds. Our sources said the Gambia was not in the position to mine oil in view of its ailing economy and international isolation. " Carnegie is likely to sue the Government for breach of contract and loss of earnings. There was no justification for their removal from the country. The President should stop harassing investors. This was what he did some years ago by expelling Alementa, an international ground firm. We were taken to court and made to over 12 Million dollars to the plaintiffs. Carnegie too might resort to court action against the Gambian Government." said a senior official at the Petroleum Department in Banjul.

According to Alan Hopkins, managing director of Perth-based Carnegie, is flying to the West African country to seek clarification after the office of President Yahya Jammeh unexpectedly called a halt to the company's mining operations. AIM-quoted Carnegie, whose chairman is seasoned Aussie entrepreneur Alan Burns, says the Gambian authorities have asked for details of minerals mined and assay laboratory results and suggests Hopkins will be able to provide the necessary information.

Carnegie, which insists it has complied with all the terms of its mining license, has been producing zircon and rutile at Sayang in The Gambia for shipment to China, with £2 million funding from China-focused Australian group Astron. Last year, Hopkins said the company hoped Sayang could produce 20,000 tonnes a year of these materials.

Outside The Gambia, Carnegie has interests in neighbouring Senegal, where one project, Niafarang, is reckoned to hold nearly five million tonnes of high-grade mineral sands and heavy metals. The company also has an agreement to explore for iron and nickel on Indonesia's Obi Island.

Carnegie shares, which floated on AIM in 2006 with a £2 million placing at 8p, later hit 9.25p but have now fallen to 3.88p, valuing the company at £2.1 million. A satisfactory resolution of the present Gambian issue would help restore their appeal.

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The Gambian Government reached a contract with the said Australian Company without involving the National Assembly. Many Gambians were not aware of the existence of such a mineral firm into the country. There are similar companies operating in The Gambia without public knowledge.

The Freedom Newspaper was also informed about the withdrawal of other foreign investors from the country due to unstable political and economic climate. The Jammeh Government was reported to have created hostile business climate for foreign investors, compelling them to leave the country.

The Gambia is currently faced by economic downturn characterized by economic hardship. The average Gambian lives below one dollar. Unemployment is also on the rice. The expulsion of Carnegie from the Gambia, would no doubt scare potential investors from coming into the country.

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