World Wide Fund for Nature and the Forest Development Rural (FODER) a local Cameroonian NGO, have initiated the very first public discussions for a national policy for the support of small scale mining and sustainable artisanal in Cameroon. Apparently, industrial mining is still at a growing phase, while artisanal and small scale mining has experienced a boom for the past years in Cameroon. 11754 permits for exploration of semi-automated and artisanal mining were released between 2012 and 2014; however the number of permits decreased extremely after 2014 with only 751 permits released in 2015 and 2016.
Despite the boom in the sector, it is hampered by insufficient regulatory and institutional concerns, conflict between local and foreign interested groups and people, lack of transparency, environmental and health vulnerabilities.
The public discussion that was held between May 10 and 12 in Bertoua brought together representatives of nine government ministries, members of parliament, business people, councils, traditional rulers, representatives of local communities and indigenous people, NGOs.
Cleto Ndikumagenge, Director of Conservation for World Wide Fund Cameroon Country Program Office said that the public discussion guarantees that reforms are participatory in the sector and can help in the identification of priorities to build a sustainable and responsible artisanal and small scale mining sector that will contribute to the emergence of Cameroon by 2035.
He added that the mining exploitation sites are of high risks both for the artisanal miners and the environment. A minuscule gold mining site found some 10 kilometers from the town of Betare Oya in December in eastern Cameroon has enticed more than 1500 people from the country itself, Chad, Nigeria, Mali and Central African Republic. Even if a miner can earn an average of FCFA 300,000 or $600 a month from digging, crushing and washing for gold, they still face various health risks.
The miners are exposed not only to health risks, but to accidents as well. It was therefore recommended that public consultations should be organized before any mining permit is issued and that inspections should be done.