(Business in Cameroon) - The National Mining Corporation (SONAMINES) initiated, on October 13, 2021, negotiations with traders, heads of smelting units, and buying offices in the gold and diamond sector in the East and the Adamaoaya, where artisanal miners and semi-mechanized operators are mostly active.
In a letter to the governor of the Eastern region, Serges Hervé Boyogueno, director-general of SONAMINES, states the reasons for the negotiations. “The work session is aimed at laying the foundations for a healthy cooperation between the various actors in the mining sector and SONAMINES, to facilitate the national corporation’s duty as the exclusive buyer and seller of gold and diamond on the national territory as provided by the decree establishing SONAMINES,” Serges Hervé Boyogueno wrote.
However, SONAMINES’ duty is not as straightforward as it appears from the letter sent by the director-general. First, paragraph 2 of the fourth article of the decree the executive referred to indicates that SONAMINES will carry out its duties following terms laid out by law. Meanwhile, diamond and gold traders and buying offices are acknowledged by the country’s mining code. Paragraph 1 of article 151 of the code adopted in 2016 states: “The marketing of mineral substances derived from non- industrial or semi-mechanized non-industrial mining shall be open to any natural or legal person governed by Cameroonian law. It shall be subject to the issuance of a license by the minister in charge of mines, under the terms and conditions laid down by regulation (…) .” Paragraph 2 of the same article stresses: “ The holder of the license referred to in Section 151(1) above shall be authorized to open an office for the purchase and marketing of mineral substances obtained from non-industrial or semi-mechanized non-industrial mining.”
In its invitation letter to the various actors, SONAMINES asked them to prepare written suggestions to “improve the discussions aimed at adopting a consensual strategy for a better organization of mineral marketing while emphasizing on the States’ interests.” Meanwhile, the meeting is scheduled to last three hours maximum. Given the complexity of the issues at stake in the marketing chain in the gold and diamond sector, it is highly unlikely that the three hours set for the meeting will be enough to fully address them.
Also, by requiring written contributions from the actors, SONAMINES is depriving itself of the suggestions of a large majority of those actors given that they are not much literate and are usually reluctant in sharing the problems and opportunities in their sectors with outsiders.
Finally, SONAMINES’s approach to gold marketing is not clear. While thousands of gold traders and buyers feed their families and support commercial activities in the East and the Northern region, the government’s role is limited to just collecting the gold produced without a specific goal. Recently, it was supposedly decided that the gold stockpiled in its state coffers will be smelted and sent to the central bank BEAC to guarantee the government’s external borrowings.