By Mustapha Jallow
A day following the stand off between members of the community of Kartong and the security concerning mining activities in the area, the authorities convened a meeting with representatives of the community.
Held yesterday, Tuesday, 24th November 2015 in the compound of Alhagie Demba Jabang, the Village Alkalo, the meeting was graced by the National Assembly Member of the Constituency, District Chief, official from the Geology Department, some elders and young people.
Addressing the meeting, the NAM for the area Hon. Abdou Colley, said that they came to Kartong to have another dialogue with the villagers on the current situation. ‘‘We want to go and look at all the places where mining is taking place and put some relevant measures in place,” said Colley.
He appealed to the youths to maintain calm and the peace.
Chief Sheriff Janneh promised to go with the young people of the village to the authorities to discuss this issue of mining in the area. He also pleaded with them to be patient while the matter is addressed.
The official representing the Geology office, who did not disclose his name, said there is a high demand for sand in The Gambia for development purposes. “Many Gambians are trying to build houses in their homes and you can’t build without sand,” he opined.
The un named Geology official said the mining being done in the area is just on a temporal basis but also appealed to the young people to be calm.
Mr Basang Sambou, a former member of the dissolved VDC, expressed his disapproval of the mining activities.
“We don’t want mining in Kartong, as we have already said this clearly, but we are helpless,” he said. He appealed to the authorities to release the young people.
Mustapha Manneh, alias Kanjura, who spoke on behalf of the youth, also appealed for the release of those who were arrested.
Another villager, Mr Kwame Jarju, commented on what he said are the dangers being posed by the mining to the community. “We are not geologists, but we have general knowledge of the environmental degradation that it causes to the surroundings,” he noted.
Other speakers included Sankung Sambou, Kanjura Touray and Buba Jaiteh, who lamented the effects of the mining activities.
The reporter observed a somber mood among the villagers regarding the mass arrests.
Visiting the mining site again, it was also observed that mining activities have resumed and the trucks have started loading sand as usual.
This meeting came on the heels of a similar one held at the Alkalo’s compound the previous day (Monday) during which the village head (Alkalo) explained how the young people had written numerous letters to the authorities on the issue. He said he was even ready to accompany them to the concerned authorities to address the issue once and for all.
The regional governor also addressed the meeting. Madam Sifai Hydara tasked the geology department to provide supervising officers in all mining areas so as to ensure that mining is done in the right way.
One Mr. Barrow from the geology department told the meeting that they have the licence from the appropriate authority to mine sand in the area.
“It is this same licence which permits us to mine the black sand (Ilminite). We are mining the sand to use it for development purposes,’’ he said.