Cameroon's huge mineral resources unlocking the wealth underground: numerous studies have suggested that Cameroon's extractive industry potential is one of the continent's most promising, and the experts are forecasting a bright future for the country's mining sector.The huge potential that recent exploration has revealed promises to make Cameroon s mining industry one of the key sectors that will underpin and consolidate the national economy in future years. Extensive exploration activity has found up to seven new and commercially viable mineral deposits to add to those that are already in production, namely iron, bauxite and nickel/cobalt.
Cameroon's Ministry of Industry, Mines and Technological Development has been following the government policy of encouraging strategic partnerships between companies that have already undertaken geological surveys and new operators that are undertaking exploration, in order to boost the mining sector and move new discoveries into production as soon as possible.
From studies to action
In his speech to the nation at the end of last year, Cameroon's head of state, President Paul Biya, stressed the vital importance of exploiting the country's mining potential and confirmed that certain projects were already showing very encouraging signs of development. He fully anticipated great results in the short to medium term. During 2010,
Biya confirmed that special attention will be given to "the construction of the cobalt, nickel, and manganese mine in Nkamouna, exploitation of the diamond deposits at Mobilong and the rehabilitation of the former Cellucam site to set in motion the Edeatech technopolis project. We will accelerate bauxite extraction in MinimMartap-Ngaoundal, iron ore extraction in Mbalam and gold mining in Betare-Oya where industrial exploitation began in 2009."
A number of industry studies have recently confirmed the enormous potential of the extractive industries in the country. The oil sector alone holds the potential of a probable 250m barrels and 187bn cubic metres of natural gas.
In addition, the following deposits have been identified:
* Bauxite: 1bn tons
* Iron Ore: 1bn tons
* Cobalt/nickel/manganese: 225m tons
* Diamonds: 736m carats
The total value of these resources on today's commodities markets is in excess of $100bn and could lead to the creation of 200,000 jobs.
To take maximum advantage of these resources, the government is determined to increase their value by undertaking transformative processes on the raw materials before export. Local manufacturing will increase the industry's revenues tenfold and significantly reinforce the country's economic development. Commenting on this strategy, Cameroon's Minister of Industry, Mines and Technological Development Ndanga Ndinga Badel said that the bulk export of raw minerals will not allow the country to benefit fully from the real revenue potential of these precious resources. "We need to tackle different issues, starting with insufficient transport infrastructure, the shortage of qualified personnel and the lack of awareness on the part of international investors of the country's true mining potential. These problems must be addressed," insisted the minister.
According to a Ministry report, the production and export of 2.5m tons of bauxite would realise $62.5m. If this same quantity of bauxite were to be smelted into aluminium in Cameroon (you need six tons of bauxite to obtain a ton of aluminium) the revenue would increase sixteenfold, to $ 1bn.
Good governance in the mining sector
Cameroon is now demanding more transparency and good governance from the mining companies operating in the country. It has already ratified the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and has formulated a strict Mining Code. This ensures non-discriminatory measures for granting and managing mining titles and the distribution of taxation income from mining revenues. It also applies the requirements of the Kimberley Process for the sale of diamonds.
By Achille Mbog Pibasso, Douala