During a press briefing on February 17, 2021, Claude Hyepdo Simo (coordinator of the Mining, Environment, Health, and Society Project for Transparency International Cameroon) suggested a set of measures to reduce illicit practices in the country’s mining sector.
He reminded that the statutory instruments of the December 2016 mining code have still not been signed, therefore facilitating several illicit practices in the mining sector.
The said instruments combine the attractiveness and transparency requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to which Cameroon is a party. This transparency presupposes that all the parties that have mining licenses in Cameroon are known and the mining licenses granted published, etc.
According to Claude Hyepdo Simo, the obvious manifestation of these illicit practices is the non-existence of semi-mechanized artisanal mining authorizations while most of the companies in the field fall into this category, he commented.
As he points out, by continuing to claim to be artisanal miners, these companies can avoid the environmental, fiscal, and socio-professional requirements semi-mechanized artisanal mining companies should abide by.
He also suggested that decentralized local authorities should be in charge of the distribution and management of mining revenues since the municipalities where mining companies operate have never received a dime from the activities carried out in their jurisdictions. "Yet the number of companies operating in the field is growing. These companies destroy the living environment of local populations with impunity under the inoffensive and sometimes complicit gaze of local administrative authorities," he added.
Preferred mining destination
For the coordinator, the publication of mining licenses and beneficial owners is one of the EITI’s requirements that help identify the people that won the companies those licenses are granted to.
He believes that the publication of the licenses and beneficial owners will be enlightening because the mapping of integrity deficits conducted by Transparency International Cameroon and the association Forêt et Développement rural (Foder) reveals a strong involvement of administrative authorities, political elites, and even the military in the mining sector. According to the mapping, they represent foreigners (Chinese mostly) operating in the field.
In the framework of the Mining Sector Capacity Building Project, excavations conducted from 2014 to 2019 on nearly 18,000 rock samples revealed that Cameroon has more than 300 new anomalies with showings, including iron, bauxite, diamond, nickel, cobalt, titanium, tin, gold, uranium, rutile, quarry substances (limestone, pozzolan, marble, granite, clay, sand) and even rare earth. These mining substances scattered throughout the national territory make Cameroon a preferred destination for mining operators.
However, Claude Hyepdo Simo explains, the mining sector may no longer be the catalyst for infrastructure and energy development and the vector for coherent endogenous industrialization presented by the National Development Strategy 2020-2030 (SND30) recently adopted by the government.