Kairo News has just been informed about a looming chaos in the Kombo South coastal town of Kartong where Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers arrested dozens of youths protesting against heavy metal mining in the area.
The youths are said to be communicating their frustration through protest, the only available tool they are left with. They had earlier pasted “No Sand Mining In Kartong” flyers on cars and street corners in Kartong but no one listened to their grievances. The youths informed the Foroyaa newspaper with the hope that Gambian authorities would invite them to the table. The only answer they received was the endless silence. “Out of frustration and anger the youths of Kartong led by one Habib Touray camped at the mining site this morning to prevent mining activities,” said a source.
“It took three reinforcements of the PIU to contain the angry youths whose protest is borne out of the destruction and discomfort caused by sand mining. And above all, Kartong residents are not benefiting from the mining which has been going on for so long,” said our Kartong source who wishes to remain anonymous.
Another source who confirmed the arrest of the youths said the protest “is the right thing to do. The people of Kartong have been pushed to the brink and the only choice they have is to protest. On my way to walk this morning, I saw paramilitary vehicles moving in and out of Kartong.”
Kairo News will do its best to get to the bottom of a story that has left so many unfilled holes. Who authorises the mining, who benefits from it or how much is derived from it?
In the meantime, Kairo News is referring readers to read the Foroyaa story pasted below to better understandthe gist of the Kartong story.
KARTONG COMMUNITY QUESTIONS THE BENEFIT OF HEAVY METAL MINING
November 20, 2015
By Mustapha Jallow
Young men from the coastal settlement of Kartong in the Kombo South District of West Coast Region (WCR) visited the Foroyaa office on Thursday, 5 November, 2015 to lodge a complaint questioning the benefit of mining activities taking place there.
They explained that since the start of the ilminite mining, their community has not benefited financially from it as opposed to the promises the miners made in terms of providing them with social amenities and infrastructure such as roads, etc.
When this reporter visited Kartong over the weekend, he was taken around the mining area by the young people for him to see what is taking place there.
Mustapha Manneh, alias Kanjura, a youth, explained how the mining activities are degrading their community without any benefit to the young people.
He revealed that a 12 year boy in grade 6 had even drowned in one of the pits on the day after the Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’.
“The government has not fulfilled its promise that the community would be benefiting from the mining,” said Modou Lamin Manneh.
He also claimed that the agreement that the mining would not go deeper than one meter and that the mined areas would be refilled with sand is not being honoured.
He expressed his disappointment and dissatisfaction with the mining activity which, he said, has brought some environmental hazards to their community.
“Kartong has never had mosquitoes after the rainy season, but since the commencement of mining in the area, it is now experiencing them all year round,” he added.
For his part, Habib Touray, a youth leader, noted that the mining is destroying the landscape as an ecotourism-friendly area. “The natural beauty of the area which is admired by both the locals and tourists is being destroyed by the mining activities,” he lamented.
Mr. Touray said there is also the environmental threat as the sand dunes which protect the village from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean are being removed by the excavation machines of the miners.
“Our village will be made vulnerable to the encroaching sea and flooding if the mining activities continue,” he said.
He revealed that there was flooding during the rains which had forced the crocodiles and large snakes out of their natural habitat to find refuge in the pits thus leading to the abandonment of the nearby gardens by people who fear for their lives.
The former Chair of the Kartong Village Development Committee (VDC), Bala Manneh, also claimed that an agreement was made between the community and the mining company called GAMICO before the start of the latter’s operations. “The first agreement we had with them was that they are not going to dig deep pits. Secondly, they are supposed to fill the pits after mining to enable the community to reclaim the place for other purposes, and thirdly, it was agreed that the community will benefit from the construction of the roads in the area,” he said.
Another former member of the VDC, Mr Bansang Sambou, confirmed the claims.
When contacted on the phone, the Village Alkalo Alhaji Demba Jallow said “To my knowledge, even though Kartong is not benefiting from the mining but the mineral is owned by The Gambia. In fact, mining has also taken place elsewhere before Kartong.”
The community elders and young people alike were all with one voice in questioning the relevance and benefits of the mining activities in Kartong.