Artisanal gold mining: 185 deaths recorded in Cameroonian mining sites since 2014

From 2014 to May 2022, the NGO Forestry and Rural Development (Foder) recorded a total of 185 deaths and more than 133 serious accidents that occurred at various artisanal gold mining sites in the eastern regions and in Adamawa. These are work accidents, “mostly due to landslides that followed the absence of minimum individual or group safety rules and the presence of many unqualified mining sites (turned into artificial lakes),” the organization reveals to EcoMatin. In addition, between September 2021, Fouder recorded a workforce of 703 abandoned holes, including 139 artificial lakes on an area of ​​93.66 hectares. In fact, all day artisanal miners are exposed to serious risks, and very few reports warn of the extent of these risks they are exposed to.

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For several years, Foder has been playing an alert role by implementing procedures aimed at disclosing the health and safety risks they are exposed to in the course of this activity to artisanal miners. This NGO has undertaken to carry out a process under the implementation of the Environment, Health and Society Mines Project, Phase II (ProMESS2), funded by the European Union, in order to assess the extent of these risks, and to develop evidence that can be used to improve health and safety conditions at work in mining in Cameroon. The said operation, which took place between May 28 and June 5, 2022, consisted of collecting data from gold miners in Batori, Keti, Ngora and Petari Oya, in particular “hair sampling from gold miners and gold collectors.” In order to assess the health risks associated with the use of mercury to extract gold,” Foder points out.

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Hair samples will be analyzed in a laboratory in order to assess the miners’ exposure to mercury and other toxic substances such as cyanide. In fact, artisanal miners, in this case, the women and children involved in mining, specifically in ores processing operations, are highly exposed to occupational health, environmental and safety risks. This is manifested by pollution through regular contact with mercury and cyanide, inhalation of dust containing dangerous metals, etc. The misuse of these highly toxic substances can have a significant negative impact on the quality of waterways and aquatic animals. Foder also reveals that among a sample of 50 miners’ hair taken, 2% of respondents, particularly women, had a mercury concentration of 108.32 mcg/g. This is well above the tolerable threshold set by the World Health Organization, which is 10 mcg/g.

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