Mr Mambury Njie stands accused of ‘neglect of duty’. Prosecutors say he had failed to appropriately advise the Office of the President in the approval of license to an Australian mining company, Carnegie Minerals. This was in 2001 and Mr Njie was permanent secretary No.1 at the President’s Office. He however pleaded not guilty.
“When I returned from my studies in Ghana in 2000, Carnegie Mineral Company was already in The Gambia in search of the country’s mineral sand around the coastal areas,” said Mr Cham. “I have found that Carnegie was issued a license in 1999.” The geologist said he was however aware when Carnegie requested a renewal of mining license.
He said: “The department forwarded the request to the Office of the President. At the time, the department of geology was answerable directly to permanent secretary No.1 at the Office of the President and Mambury Njie was PS No.1 at the time. Later, we got approval for renewal of Carnegie Mineral Company’s licence through Mambury… After the approval, it was communicated to the company that renewal had been granted. The company proceeded with prospecting operations in The Gambia and later, they came for the actual mining of the mineral sand.”
Led in his testimony by the prosecutor, Superintendent Sainey Joof, Mr Cham added further: “In the company’s latest application for licence, they indicated that they have indentified Brufut stockpile, which they wanted to explore to test Gambian products to the international market. The licence they renewed permitted the company to mine and sell Brufut stockpile.”
Mr Cham who had started working for the geology department in 1983 and rose through ranks to director in 2007, revealed that Carnegie had also wanted to mind quartz, but their mining interest was eventually confined to sand in the coastal areas.
“After carrying out their tests, they came to the conclusion that they were satisfied with the method they used to carry out the testing. The company was expected to pay royalties to the government. The company also applied for another licence to carry out exploration of sand deposits at Kartong, Batokunku and Sanyang because they said they were satisfied with the Gambian product but will continue mining in coastal villages. Having submitted the application to the geology department with indication of area of interest, and specific mineral types they wanted to mine including zircon, elminite…
“The department contracted several stakeholders and submitted the company’s application for approval to the Office of the President. We received a report from Carnegie Minerals indicating the qualities and royalties they were paying.”
During cross examination, Mr Cham confirmed that the minister approves and grants licenses for mining. Meanwhile, the table was at some point turned on Mr Cham as the circumstances surrounding his sacking came under scrutiny.
“You were fired,” the defence lawyer charged Mr Cham, who had been appointed director in 2007, dismissed in 2008 and reappointed in 2012 only to be sacked a few months later.
“No, I was not fired,” he replied. “My services were terminated.”
Unrelenting, Lamin Camara put it to the witness that his services were terminated in 2008 in connection to the Carnegie Minerals.
In response, the witness said the reason for his termination was not specified in the letter.
Mr Mambury Njie had a lengthy career in the government services, serving at various times as minister of finance, trade and foreign affairs. He also had a stint as secretary general and head of civil service.
By Sainey Marenah]]>