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An Abandoned Mine in Cameroon Poses more Problems for Villagers

A crowd of vulnerable people, such as children and pregnant women, glean the gold residues that may have escaped from this mine operated by a Chinese firm. The activity here is dangerous particularly for women. At the Batouri Catholic Hospital, Dr. Bethsalel Ndifo is one of the regulars for patients with vaginal lesions. Over time, he says, he realized that most of these patients had worked in the mines and immediately made the connection to mercury, which is used here by almost all the large-scale miners to facilitate the separation of the gold from the tailings. “If it is true that mercury can cause lesions when ingested through the skin and digestive tract, it is also true that if there is contact at the genital level, since the woman is immersed in water containing mercury during this work, it is understandable that the sex and reproductive system, especially the vagina, which are also exposed to this liquid containing mercury, can get damaged.” Since December 2018, Cameroon has been a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury- a convention that commits states to reduce or even eliminate this product from the artisanal gold mining process. Yet in this mining town, the presence of the product is far from being eliminated.