Villagers in Lolabe in Cameroon have protested over the recently inked deal by the government for iron ore to be exported from their village and Lobe, the district where Lolabe is located.
Earlier this month, the government announced the $676 million high-grade iron ore mining deal with Sinosteel Cam S.A., a Cameroonian subsidiary of the state-owned Chinese miner. Cameroon said the deal will develop the Lobe iron ore mine located in the south of the country.
Opposition lawmaker and former presidential candidate Cabral Libii led the protest and said the Cameroonian government has shown that it is neither transparent nor accountable by allowing Sinosteel to carry out a feasibility study on the quantity of iron ore in Lobe and authorizing the same company to exploit the iron ore.
He said there is no guarantee that the estimates of the Libii also said a Cameroonian company should have been given a license to explore and exploit the natural resource instead of a foreign company that has no interest in developing Cameroon and moving its citizens out of poverty.
Libii said the interests of the host community are not well spelled out in the exploitation agreement and there is nothing in the deal that compels the iron ore exploitation company to develop Lobe and Lolabe. He said an independent firm should be hired to conduct studies on the amount of iron ore in the region.
However, on their side, Gabriel Dodo Ndoke, Cameroon’s mines minister, said Sinosteel Cam is expected to build schools, hospitals, roads and a 20-kilometer-long pipeline to move the ore from Lobe to the port in Kribi, a coastal city in the south of Cameroon.
“It is a win-win mining convention that the state has signed,” he said. “At the macroeconomic level, the project will contribute significantly to the development of our economy through high added value on the GDP. The Cameroon mining code provides for the payment of specific mining taxes for local development and the Sinosteel mining agreement took all these elements into account.”
Ndoke said the project is expected to generate at least 600 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs. Direct jobs refer to positions posted by the company. Indirect jobs refer to those created in the community due to the mine’s presence. The government says under the terms of the deal, Sinosteel Cam will mine 10 million tons of ore with 33% iron content annually for 10 years.