Working conditions in the semi-mechanized mine-Cameroon

Working conditions in semi-mechanized artisanal farms: what state of the lieux ?

Semi-mechanized artisanal mining is defined under Cameroonian law as: mining carried out under a authorization for semi-mechanized artisanal mining of precious and semi-precious substances that uses no more than three (03) excavators (mechanical shovels), a dredging machine with possibly other equipment such as the mineralized gravel washing or mining product concentration machine. The use of chemicals in processing is strictly prohibitedPrior to the promulgation of the new mining code, a mining permit was only to be issued to nationals, as defined by the provisions of law N° Loi n°001-2001 of April 16, 2001. Certain provisions of this law were supplemented and amended over the years by decrees N° 2002/648/PM of March 26, 2002, N° 2010/011 of July 29, 2010, N° 2014/1882/PM of July 04, 2014, and N° 2014/2349/PM of August 01, 2014.

Although restrictive and clear on the granting of semi-mechanized artisanal mining authorizations to nationals, findings in the field were contradictory. In fact, the players who carried out this activity were foreigners, most of them Chinese. Local sources report that Cameroonians were renting permits from them. Their presence is quite noticeable  in the localities of Betaré oya, Kolomine, Batouri, Yokadouma and others in the case of the Eastern Region, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of them. They use cheap labor made up of their compatriots, some of whom have no identity papers.

However, the Chinese also use local labor, as the young people of the various localities have a better grasp of their environment. However, these engagements with Chinese and other foreign employers are not without effect on these young people, who see no improvement in their living conditions. The repercussions are disastrous, with numerous reports of unfair dismissals without payment of rights, arrests of employees and other influence peddling, poor working conditions, not to mention non-compliance with the provisions on health and safety at work laid down in Law n°92-007 of August 14, 1992 on the labor code in Cameroon. It is therefore necessary to carry out more in-depth investigations and for the labor inspectorate to take the bull by the horns to ensure that the rights of Cameroonian workers are respected.

This situation is at the root of various conflicts, particularly disagreements over land issues and the impact of mining operations. In addition, it has gradually given rise to new practices in social, economic and professional relations, such as night-time mining, the use of chemical products, the demobilization of miners from school, etc. These practices are not without consequences for health, with the development of numerous water-borne diseases, for the environment, with water pollution, and for families, with multiple deaths caused by work-related accidents.

With regard to the new law N°2016/017 on the Mining Code of December 14, 2016, foreigners with branches under Cameroonian law are now entitled to authorizations in the semi-mechanized mining craft sector. Unfortunately, the workers recruited into these operations from local communities are very often unaware of their rights, the means of defense and the means of recourse in the event of violations of their rights. Thus, the implementation of legal provisions relating to local content and the labor code requires the empowerment of all stakeholders: employers must comply with the legislation in force, state structures must monitor and ensure the application of the various provisions, and workers must get out of the wait-and-see situation and denounce cases of abuse and various exactions.

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