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Young People Bear the Brunt of Cameroon’s Inability to Govern Artisanal Mining

Authorities in Cameroon have sealed at least 30 gold mines, including some owned by Chinese, after at least 33 young miners died in landslides this month and scores more were declared missing. Officials said Monday that they are also concerned about working conditions that have caused deaths within the seasonal gold mine community. On Monday, Djadai Yakouba, the highest-ranking government official in Batouri, said he deployed several hundred government troops to seal at least 30 gold mines in Kambele. Yakouba said the facilities defied a July 2022 government ban on mining activities. He said the troops and humanitarian workers searched for missing miners and recovered corpses buried at collapsed sites. The central African state’s government officials say at least 33 miners, a majority of them school children on holiday, have died in Kambele within the past month. The government says about 10 children ages nine to 13 were among the dead. Lambert Essono is an environmentalist with Save Cameroon, a non-governmental organization on Cameroon’s eastern border with the C.A.R. Essono says this year’s heavy rains have increased the number of miners trapped in sites on Cameroon’s eastern border with C.A.R. He says many more deaths may be recorded if miners continue to defy the ban. Therefore, he says, the government of Cameroon should make sure that all mining companies build trenches and retaining walls to protect miners from landslides. Essono says the government should punish mining firms that recruit and keep poor children out of school. Under Cameroonian law, children under the age of 14 aren’t allowed to work. Essono said poverty pushes parents to send their children to work in mining sites where they are paid $3 after 24 hours of work.