Cameroon lies on the “gold belt” of West Africa, stretching from Mali through Ghana far into the continent. The eastern part bordering with the political instable Central African Republic is considered one of the most promising regions regarding gold and diamond resources. The business remains a poorly regulated one with hardly any official figures available on extraction or trade. Modern mining methods are under-utilised and foreign investors still to be drawn to the country. In more recent years international companies – mainly from France, China and Canada have shown increasing interest. With poor regulation of the sector and government prone for corruption this development is welcomed with careful scepticism. Illegal mining, land grabbing, and unlawfully accessed licences contribute to a bad image.
Much of the gold extraction is conducted in artisanal mines. Families and villages jointly work together. Child labor is common, and numerous organizations have reported cases of parents taking their children out of school in order to support the family.
Many of the informal mines are run by middle-men buying off the minerals (gold and diamonds) at low prices. But money issues are pressing and leave little room and/ or power for negotiation.