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Lobé mining project: Cameroon cancels 127 land deeds, averts new compensation scandal

Lobé mining project: Cameroon cancels 127 land deeds, averts new compensation scandal
  • Comments   -   Thursday, 13 July 2023 17:43

(Business in Cameroon) - Minister of State Property Henri Ayébé Ayissi (photo) recently canceled 127 land deeds held by individuals on the Lobé iron ore project site. He notified the Ministry of State Property’s regional delegate in the Ocean region in a letter dated July 10, 2023. 

"Referring to your investigation report on the re-examination of procedures, the reference and subject of which are given in the margin note, and considering the convincing and relevant elements contained therein, I have the honor of informing you that by order signed today, I have declared null and void the land deeds irregularly established in the area impacted by the Lobé industrial iron mining project," the government official informed in his letter.  

He also indicates that "direct registration procedures requested on the same site, in violation of regulatory provisions, are definitively suspended, as are all [the procedures] related to technical files." 

Analysis shows that anticipating the completion of the Lobé iron ore mining project in Kribi, people rushed to acquire plots of land on the site and illegally got land deeds. This was to benefit from compensations to land owners who would have been expropriated in the framework of the project.  

In Kribi, when Mboro was chosen to replace Grand Batanga as the host of the deep seaport for technical reasons, there was also a rush of land buyers -even some of the country’s prominent figures rushed to buy lands there- to the site. As a result, the commission tasked to identify people expropriated in the framework of the project estimated the government should disburse a record CFAF20 billion as compensation. Following denunciations, an investigation was opened. By filtering the list of those who should receive the compensations, the government saved CFAF9 billion- as revealed by then Minister of State Property late Jacqueline Koung à Bessiké - and ten of the members of the commission ended up in jail. 

A new scandal averted 

Minister Eyébé Ayissi's decision should help the government avoid another compensation scandal, after the one involving the deep seaport project. All the more so since, in his address to the nation on December 31, 2022, President Paul Biya announced the effective launch of at least two mining projects in the country during the current year, including the Lobé iron ore project. "A decisive step has already been taken in the realization of these various projects, with the signing of the relevant mining conventions and the granting of operating permits to the winning companies", the President revealed.

Minister Eyébé Ayissi's recent decision to cancel the land deeds and suspend all transactions on the site of the Lobé iron project should help the government avoid another compensation scandal, after the one involving the deepwater port project. In his address to the nation on December 31, 2022, President Paul Biya announced the effective launch of at least two mining projects in the country this year, including the Lobé iron ore project. "A decisive step has already been taken in implementing these different projects, with the signing of the relevant mining agreements and granting of operating permits to successful bidders," he said.  

The said Lobé project is led by Sinosteel Cam SA. It covers an area of 138 km in the southern region of Cameroon. It has a potential of 632 million tons of ore containing about 33% of iron. The project is expected to produce 10 million tons of ore with 33% iron content annually for 50 years. The enrichment of the output is expected to give “million tons of high-grade ore with more than 60% iron content” annually. 

Brice R. Mbodiam 

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