Cameroon sitting on goldmine, battling with debts!.

The Cameroon government has over the years been struggling to keep its soaring debts under 50 percent of Gross Domestic Product as alarms are incessantly blown by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank; that the country risks sliding into the nadir of debts distress.Ironically, Cameroon is sitting on a goldmine. 



In the words of the Interim Minister of Mines, Industries and Technological Development, Prof Fuh Calistus Gentry, in an interview he granted Cameroon Tribune, said there are abundant mineral resources in the country.

When asked to enumerate them, he said: "Take bauxite, in the whole of Africa in terms of reserves, we have 1.1 billion tonnes in Ngaoundere/Ngaoundal in the Adamawa Region, about 50 million tonnes in Fongo Tongo. For iron Ore in Mbalam in the East Region, we have over 4.5 billion tonnes of low-grade ore and for Direct Shipping Ore (DSO)…”.

"This is rich iron ore that is exported immediately after mining. You do not need to treat it. There, we have over 250 million tonnes. Just from Mbalam to Kribi, from where we are developing an infrastructure corridor for Central Africa, we have four other deposits along the railway. We have Nkout deposit, Ngoveyang, Mammel de Kribi and we have iron ore just 100 km from Kribi, with other findings still going on. That forms the first iron ore belt in Africa, which is transcending many countries.

"There is also dotted iron ore in the North West Region. The reserves are enormous and Cameroon can boost over 10 billion tonnes of known reserves in these different fields. This should add to the gold we have in the East Region, uranium and cobalt/nickel deposits in Lomie, which is the largest lateritic cobalt deposit in the world."

With such resources, the country has been limping in the inglorious club of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries-HIPC. Nonetheless, it has got up from the sleep of death with the revision of the Mining Code passed voted by parliament this week.

The 2016 code that was amended was embedded with loopholes that encouraged corruption and opaque management.

In defending the bill before it got the endorsement of critical parliamentarians, Minister Gentry said: “...in our ministry, we have not spent a night of sleep. We have worked to see that the instructions of the Head of State, especially about the three projects that are to start, are fully observed. I am proud to announce that mining is not more potential, mining is a reality; and that next year, we will start exporting Iron Ore,” he told the MPs.

The bill, Prof Fuh Calistus explained, seeks to “remedy the shortcomings” of the previous law and “incorporate the attractiveness, competitiveness and financial profitability concerns that can help to fast-track the implementation of transformational mining projects and increase the solid minerals sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product in the short or medium term”.

Speaking to reporters after the adoption of the bill, the visibly elated Prof Fuh Calistus, expressed delight to what he said is the interest Cameroonians are taking in the activities of the ministry. He said the 2016 law did not take into account the existence of the National Mining Corporation, SONAMINES, because many sections of the law had to be revised.

“This law brings in SONAMINES to represent the state in mining companies and will also give SONAMINES the right to buy gold in order to build gold reserves in the nation,” he revealed.

The bill, he added, also allows SONAMINES to take part in the nodal value, which permits the state not to depend solely on dividends, but take part in the next nodal value so that its interests are guaranteed.

The revision, Prof Fuh Calistus added, also envisages that Cameroonians will have up to 35% minimum in quarries and also give SONAMINES the right to directly collect taxes, unlike in the recent past when it delegated the Taxation Department to collect them.

All the revisions made, Prof Fuh Calistus stated, are in tandem with the instructions of the Head of State, to transition from a mining potential nation to a mining nation”.

As a mining nation, The Guardian Post hopes that the good effect will be observed with good roads, ameliorated medical facilities and electricity, especially in localities where the minerals will be extracted.

The protection of the environment should also be taken into consideration. Above all, an improved GDP, reduction in debts and provision of employment for the local populations.

One of the preponderant reasons why the 2016 law has been revised is corruption in the sector. A report jointly written by Foder, an NGO, and Transparency International Cameroon in 2020, pointed out that “there is no means of certification of the gold collected from operators, only the declaration of the support framework and the promotion of artisanal mining is authentic”.

The report added that: "…the loss of income for the State of Cameroon in mining operations could be estimated at several hundreds of billions FCFA...there is a lot of dysfunctions which causes significant losses in mineral imports from Cameroon".

While The Guardian Post congratulates Minister Fuh Cletus for initiating the revision, and parliament's endorsement, we warn that without tackling ccorruption and influence peddling in the sector, which is said to start from "the local level and evolve to reach the apex", nothing will change. And Cameroon's debts will continue to grind the economy while the country is endowed with abundant mineral resources. 

 

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