(Business in Cameroon) - Today 22, 2022, is the day Camalco, the local subsidiary of Australian mining firm Canyon Resources, is expected to submit its new exploration plan for the Ngaoundal and Makan bauxite deposits. According to authorized sources, those new plans will confirm the firm’s interest in developing those deposits after the request it submitted to the Ministry of Mines in June 2021, for the extension of its research permits.
Indeed, on July 18, 2018, Canyon Resources received three exploration permits covering the Minim-Martap, Ngaoundal, and Makan bauxite deposits. Those permits were valid for a 3-year non-renewable term. So, they expired in July 2021.
"Keeping the deadlines we were allowed in mind, we worked on the three deposits but we only presented a feasibility study covering the Minim-Martap deposit to the government. In June 2021, we submitted a request to the Ministry [of Mines] for the extension of the permits covering Makan and Ngaoundal so that we can continue our works. We are still expecting the government’s answer,” an internal Camalco source explains.
Infringement of the mining code
While Canyon Resources was awaiting a response from the government concerning its request for the extension of permits deemed valid for a non-renewable 3-year period, Cameroon’s National Mining Company (Sonamines) submitted a request for research permits for the Ngaoundal and Makan deposits. Its requests were submitted because of the provision enacting the non-renewable character of the permits granted to Canyon Resources.
The process initiated by Sonamines led to the signature, on February 18, 2022, of a Memorandum of Understanding between the national mining corporation and Chinese firm CREC 5 for the development of the bauxite mines and related industries.
On February 21, 2022, however, Minister of Mines Gabriel Dodo Ndoké, signed a decree voiding the memorandum. "The act thus incriminated is voided for violation of the Cameroonian mining legislation that governs the attribution of mining titles, the conclusion and signature of contracts, pre-contracts, conventions and other agreements relating to the administration and management of the mineral resources of the Cameroonian subsoil, that are exclusive state prerogatives,” the government official wrote.
Specifically, Minister Dodo Ndoké was blaming Sonamines’ Director-General, Serge Hervé Boyogueno, of having supplanted the state and its technical supervisor (the Ministry of Mines) by signing that memorandum of understanding with CREC 5.
When Business in Cameroon reached out to decision-makers at Sonamines, they preferred not to comment on “this decision issued by the technical supervising authority.” They just pointed out that signing the memorandum of understanding is also part of the national mining corporation’s prerogatives since it is “autonomous”, not “a department of the Ministry of Mines.”
Also, once comforted that they will remain anonymous, internal sources at the Ministry of Mines, Camalco, and Sonamines claim the decree issued on February 21, 2022, by Minister Dodo Ndoké is just a new episode of the power struggle between Sonamines and Camalco to get the rights to develop the Ngaoundal and Makan deposit.
According to our sources, this struggle, which has been going on for months, escalated during negotiations between Cameroon and Canyon Resources for exploitation of the Minim-Martap deposit. During those negotiations that ended on January 28, 2022, there were clear signs of misunderstanding between Sonamines and the Ministry of Mines’ representatives. Sonamines’ representatives even accused those from the Ministry of Mines of being complaisant with the Australian mining firm.
Let’s note that according to Canyon Resources, the Minim-Martap, Ngaoundal, and Makan deposits are world-class deposits. As per the latest estimates by the Australian firm, with Minim-Martap and Ngaoundal only, Cameroon could become the leading bauxite reserve in the world and therefore a major actor in aluminum production.
Brice R. Mbodiam