A report prepared by Transparency International Cameroon and Forêts et Développement Rural states that the lack of a clear regulatory framework has led to the entrenchment of illegal practices within Cameroon’s mining sector, which are supported by rampant corruption.
The document overlays the legal framework that governs the mining sector in Cameroon to data collected in the field through focus group discussions and interviews with mine operators, authorities, and communities. It found that the absence of the 2016 Mining Code Implementing Decree favors a state of anarchy within the sector.
The referred Mining Code was approved on December 14, 2016, to signal the government’s desire to improve governance and mining transparency. However, the implementing text of this new code has yet to be promulgated and until this happens, a 2001 law with a number of amendments and loopholes remains valid.
According to Transparency International and FODER, there is, for example, a lack of clear definition of who should be the authority with the power to issue individual artisanal mining cards, authorizations and permits. This situation has created a cacophony between central and local authorities and has led to poor traceability of mining-related income.
Based on their findings, the NGOs believe that the absence of the code also promotes illicit practices such as influence peddling, favoritism, corruption and fraud, involving political elites such as MPs, senators, mayors, ministers, divisional officers and the military.
The organizations were also made aware of recent reports related to the increased influence of the President’s office in the granting of mining permits.
“Almost 95% of companies operating in the mining sector are of foreign nationality, in particular South Korean and Chinese. Behind each of these companies are believed to be Cameroonian personalities,” the report reads.
During the fieldwork, TI and FODER found that the majority of exploration permit holders do not meet the technical and financial requirements established in the law and, despite this, their permits are regularly renewed after they expire.
Public disclosure on the conditions under which exploration permits are granted is a non-existing practice in the West African country.
When it comes to operating companies, the NGO researchers found that all the firms they held meetings with don’t have any authorization to carry out semi-mechanized artisanal mining, yet the nature and logistics of their activity require it. Countrywide, they believe that more than 60% of semi-mechanized operators work without any authorization.
“Their only document is the telephone number of an influential person in the country who is ready to intervene in the event of an inspection,” the report states. “When questioned [about this], officials justify this situation by the lack of the implementing decree.”
The authors of the report also observed night washing of products/minerals, fraudulent channeling, concealment of quantities, and swindling of certain gendarmerie detachment officers and personnel linked to the Artisan Mining Support and Promotion Framework.
When it comes to product marketing, they found that more than 60% of traders have no license or buying-and-selling office authorization, yet they practice in full view of state officials and supply informal channels, a practice that could jeopardize Cameroon’s participation in the Kimberley Process.
“Improving governance and transparency in the mining sector requires the establishment and application of a regulatory framework capable of ensuring optimal revenue collection and their equitable redistribution. It also involves the strengthening of environmental protection measures and the promotion of the involvement of all honest actors, in their respective domain, with regard to ensuring implementation, control and monitoring of activities in the mining value chain in Cameroon,” the report concludes.