- It is now official that The Gambia is set to implement the exploitation of its sand deposits to start exporting ilmenite (zircon) after the West African country's government earlier this year sealed an agreement with Australia's Carnegie Corporation.
The agreement licensed Carnegie Corporation to mine the mineral in the name of its newly registered body, Carnegie Minerals Gambia. The deal also allows Carnegie Minerals Gambia to export Gambian minerals for five years. Carnegie has already secured contracts with China to export around 20,000 tonnes of zircon concentrate a year, and is to start commercial mining before the end of the year.
Geological experts believed that the poor country has huge deposits of sand ilmenite along its short Atlantic coasts - off the villages of Bafuloto, Sanyang and Kartong. Besides, huge deposits of the hard grade ore litter the seashore of the Atlantic coasts.
During colonial days, Gambia Minerals Ltd. mined and exported large quantities of the sand mineral found in the country. This had improved living conditions for residents of the areas but mining stopped suddenly.
Before the new agreement was signed, it was alleged that mining of ilmenite had already began, although many people doubted where the proceeds have been going to. "Mining of ilmenite started in The Gambia sine July this year," claimed a source.
Carnegie only in January this year heralded that it finally had received "all approvals" necessary to start mining from the Gambian government, following a five-year engagement in the country. This first Gambian mining licence granted in over 50 years thus had just been signed off by President Yahya Jammeh.
The long process to achieve a mining licence was partly due to the fact that Gambian authorities had not expected any such application, given the country's very limited mineral resources. Now updated national mining plan existed. Before President Jammeh could sign off the licence, the company also had to complete a Mine Plan and an Environmental Study.
Securing minimal damage on the environment along The Gambia's short coastline, Carnegie is to do most of ilmenite processing within the country. "The by-product washed sand is also planned to be sold into the local construction industry to provide a very useful additional supply at a time of high construction activity," the company informs.
With the licence given in January and the registering of Carnegie Minerals Gambia, the Australian company is now free to start its commercial mining operations at any time. In its most recent report to shareholders, the company signalled operations would start this year. Carnegie also hopes to be able to start mining ilmenite/zircon in adjacent areas in southern Senegal by 2007, the same report said.
In a separate development, The Gambia is also poised to better manage its maritime sector. Despite enacting a maritime law by the parliament, The Gambia is still without a body that is tasked with running the sector.
Instead, the Gambia Ports Authority handles shipping, ferry services and other maritime services. But now the government is ready to create a structure for that purpose so as to do-away with mediocrity in the maritime services.
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