CAMEROON: Chinese mining company tried for murder and pollution

A hearing was held on August 23, 2022 at the Batouri Criminal Court in the East Region of Cameroon, in the case of four families who lost their children in the mining sites (in May 2021) against the Chinese company Mencheng Wang Woping, for “violation of the requirements related to the specifications”. At the opening of the proceedings, Kinda, the judge of the Batouri court of first instance granted the request of the victims’ council constituted in July 2021 by the Center for the Environment and Development (CED).

Me Dieudonné Tedjisse requested and obtained legal transport to the Kambélé 3 mining sites by Batouri in order to establish the materiality of the facts of the digging of the unclosed holes as well as the appearance of Ms. Lu, the promoter Mencheng Wang Woping. This legal procedure is something the DEC is trying to do. “We’re trying to get a win out of a small number so we can trigger bigger action in the future,” says Samuel Nguiffo, secretary general of the CED.

“When mining companies dig for gold, they are forced to shut down to avoid cave-ins. However, the fact that this company organizes once a week what the population calls the Sassayé (irregular entry into the mining sites) leads to accidents. A mining site must be secured to avoid the presence of unauthorized persons,” declared Dieudonné Tedjisse, the lawyer for the civil parties. According to him, it is a strong message which, from a symbolic point of view, is sent to all expatriates and locals, so that their actions do not go unpunished.

From a legal point of view, the CED believes that the provisions of the Cameroonian Mining Code of December 14, 2016 must be respected. “Wherever there are mining activities, there are significant risks to the survival and health of people and the environment. We need to change the practice of mining in our country, especially gold mining,” explains Samuel Nguiffo.

More than 200 deaths recorded in the mines of the East in six years, according to the CED

On May 31, 2021, several deaths were recorded in the Kambélé 3 mines, including those of Constantin Barka (34 years old) who left three children, Wilfried Mekonda Wilfried (28 years old) and Youssouf Tahar (16 years old), a Central African expatriate and student at the bilingual high school of Batouri. According to the CED, 200 deaths have been recorded in the mines of the Eastern region over the past six years.

Read also-AFRICA: the impact of mining activities on the environment

On July 27, 2022, the sub-prefect of Kadey department, Djadaï Yakouba, decided to close all mining companies operating in Kambélé until further notice. The decision was motivated by the recurrent deaths of people by drowning due to the non-closure of mining holes after exploitation, or by landslides due to non-compliance with mining standards and the threat of degradation of the national road number 10 .

Boris Ngounou

Elna M. Lemons