Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in East Cameroon: Policy and Livelihood Implications

Mbianyor Bakia

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Over the past few decades, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has grown at an exponential rate across sub-Saharan Africa where the activity involves an eclectic mix of people. Despite the conventional image of this being a marginal, subsistence-oriented and poverty driven activity, there is growing recent evidence that it is one of the region’s most important rural non-farm activities. However, ASM has received little coverage in development literature; has failed to garner support from governments, donor and aid agencies; and has been excluded from most of the region’s development agenda. These have been blamed on insufficient baseline census information on the subject and policy
dialogues that are not in tune with the realities on the ground.

My research helps to bridge this gap by focusing on the East Region, the location of a burgeoning ASM sector in Cameroon, capturing a level of detail not yet undertaken. To achieve this, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analyses was undertaken: interviews with 26 key stakeholders; 389 miners, focus group discussions and participant observation. This research provides a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of ASM sector of the East Region of Cameroon.
The findings from this research reveal that ASM is the most important livelihood in the area. The activity is highly informal as a result of lack of policy and regulatory capacity in the sector. Due to the absence of large-scale mine production and ubiquitous land availability, operatives mine directly from primary deposits. Extraction rates are high, with miners earning up to US$ 40 per day. Household income shows low levels of inequality with Gini coefficients of less than 0.4. The high incomes from ASM stimulates downstream activities and enhances local economies in a manner atypical in other rural parts of Cameroon. Despite ethnic heterogeneity in Cameroon, ASM populations are
homogenous, and access to land for the activity is governed by politics, ethnicity and social identity.

A few number of ASM operatives diversify their income sources by engaging in other livelihoods due to age and family responsibility. Whilst the study does not reveal any evidence of ‘re-agrarianization’, it has shown a recognisable level of interconnectedness between ASM and smallholder farming. Despite such strategy, the miners are deemed to be vulnerable and less adaptable to impending LSM boom and possible change in the miners’ lifestyles. The study concludes with a call for parallel studies to be carried out in other mineral rich parts of the country, and for ASM to be mainstreamed in Cameroon’s poverty reduction strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Simon, David, Supervisor
  • Dodds, Klaus, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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