Australian company accuses Cameroon of issuing Mbalam mining permit to third party in breach of ICC injunction

By YUSINYU OMER in Yaoundé

The Australian mining company Sundance Resources said on Monday September 5, 2022 in a press release that Cameroon has breached an international court order by handing over its permit to mine the Mbalam iron ore deposit to a local company amid an ownership dispute.

Sundance Resources has been in a dispute with authorities of Cameroon and Congo over the Mbalam Nabeba iron ore project which is expected to produce 35 million tons of ore a year for at least 25 years for some time now.

According to the release, the Emergency Arbitrator had issued a decision on July 20, 2022 declaring that the request filed by Cameroon on June 16, 2022 to annul the Emergency Arbitrator’s ICC Interim Orderof April 1, 2022, was without merit and thus denied the Request in its entirety; Cameroon still went ahead with the Cameroon Mining Convention

Commenting on the surprise move by Cameroon to issue the Mbalam decree, Sundance non-executive director GiulioCasello said: “Sundance is stunned that Cameroon has ignored the interim order of the Emergency Arbitrator atthe International Chamber of Commerce, ignored international law and even ignored its own miningcode to issue an exploitation permit to this newly formed company, Cameroon Mining CompanySARL”.

“Although we have now established that Cameroon Mining Company SARL is part of the same groupof companies as Sangha Mining, the Congolese entity that somehow obtained our Nabeba projectafter it was expropriated by Congo, it is still far from clear who is ultimately behind this group andhow they are obtaining these valuable mining rights despite not meeting even the most basicrequirements of the mining laws of Congo and Cameroon”.

“Sundance had always believed that Cameroon would follow the rule of law and conduct itself inaccordance with international norms”.

“However, the issuance of the Mbalam Decree demonstrates that Cameroon and its President havedecided to disregard all of this and in so doing have severely damaged Cameroon’s reputation as atransparent and reliable host for foreign investment, not just from the mining sector but allindustries. The message is clear that the Government of Cameroon treats the law as a matter ofconvenience. It saddens me to say this because I have spent a lot of time in Cameroon and I knowthere are many good, hardworking people in the Government of Cameroon who will be shocked bythese developments and the negative fallout for their country”.

“Apart from tarnishing its reputation as a safe place for foreign investment, by issuing the MbalamDecree Cameroon has further weakened its position in the arbitration against Sundance, which wewill now pursue with increased vigour”.

“As we have previously announced, we had been hopeful of reaching an amicable and just settlementwith Cameroon. It now seems that Cameroon is taking a different path, which means Sundance willfollow through with the full legal process available to us. We are well resourced for that purpose.Sundance’s lawyers have taken steps to inform the International Chamber of Commerce ofCameroon’s breach of the Emergency Arbitrator’s interim order. This type of breach hasconsequences in international arbitration, where rules are rules and contracts are enforced aswritten”.

“We therefore call on Cameroon to rescind this decree and issue the exploitation permit to CamIron.”

Sundance claims that the permit breaches the International Chamber of Commerce’s ruling that the licence cannot be awarded to a third party while it is under dispute and is seeking $8.8 billion in damages.

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