Mining taxation in Cameroon: what’s at stake in the poorly mechanized mining sector?

Subdivided into three sub-sectors, namely artisanal mining, semi-mechanized mining and the mining industry, the mining sector in general experienced a boom in the early 2000s, with the massive awarding of exploration and mining permits. The entry of companies such as GEOVIC, C and K mining and Cam Irom revealed the stakes in Cameroon’s mining potential. At the same time, semi-mechanized mining has taken on a new form, rubbing shoulders with traditional, long-established artisanal mining to the point of confusion.

In order to make this semi-mechanized sector a vector for economic growth, and to achieve the objectives set out in the DSCE, Cameroon has improved its legal and fiscal framework. Indeed, the current legal framework has taken account of this new aspect of the artisanal sector, which consists of mining using machinery and equipment that enables operations to be carried out rapidly. The tax framework for lightly mechanized mining has undergone considerable change, notably in terms of the taxation of artisanal mining and quarrying permits, with fixed fees estimated at 1,500,000 FCFA on granting, and 3,000,000 FCFA on renewal. In addition, the surface tax is set at 50 FCFA/M2/year, and the synthetic tax is an innovation at 25%. This tax is distributed as follows: corporate income tax (IS), ad valorem tax, State share (Public Treasury), mining sector development fund, CAPAM, territorially competent commune and local communities. However, the percentage of each of these parties has yet to be specified (regulations are currently being drawn up).

To improve revenue collection in this sector, the State has deemed it necessary to give greater responsibility to CAPAM, which, through Decree n°2014/2349/PM of August 01, 2014, has already been entrusted with the mission of collecting 15% of the gross production of lightly mechanized mining companies as its shares and IS. In addition, the joint MINFI/MINMIDT Order N°003950/MINFI/MINMIDT of 01June 2015 empowers CAPAM to collect the ad valorem tax on mineral substances, and the IS installment due by companies engaged in low-mechanized artisanal mining, on behalf of the General Tax Directorate.

Clearly, what emerges here is a desire on the part of the State not only to improve the mining tax base, but also to guarantee efficient collection, as mentioned above and indicated in Law n°2016/017 of December14, 2016 establishing the mining code in Cameroon.

However, it is worth highlighting the burdens faced by CAPAM, notably the lack of coercive power, the remarkable drop in its budget allocation, which fell from 1.5 billion FCFA in 2012 to 600 million in 2017  the salaries of CAPAM staff seem derisory and inspire corruption  a partial coverage of existing mining sites by its agents  the manifest insecurity of which the latter are victims, the lack of cooperation of companies with CAPAM agents in charge of recovering the State’s share, and the perpetual change of name of poorly mechanized artisanal mining companies, with the sole aim of evading fiscal taxation.

One might well wonder about the quality of the performance of a body like CAPAM, to which all eyes are riveted, and whose scope of intervention does not seem proportional to the challenges it faces. Moreover,  the government daily (Cameroun Tribune)  published in April 2017 that the State of Cameroon loses 12 billion FCFA per year, or one (01) billion every month in artisanal mining. It would therefore be appropriate to take into account these shortcomings of CAPAM and rethink the governance of the poorly mechanized artisanal mining sector in Cameroon, so that it participates effectively  in growth and development, if not in a better future.

By Christian E. ANANGUE

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