Kribi: Major industrial developments on the horizon

Port of Kribi. Photo by Christiane Badgley

Take a nice look at Kribi’s quaint fishing port. It may be unrecognizable in a few years.

After many years of talks and delays, the Cameroonian government appears to be moving ahead with the Kribi deepwater port project, the first step of a major industrial development program.

A recent dispatch from Chinese state radio announced that the Cameroonian government will soon begin a US$50 million compensation program for residents on the site of the future port. According to the article, “The Kribi deep water port in southern Cameroon will be constructed on a 26,000 acres piece of land. It will have an industrial complex with four terminals as well as a mineral wharf for exporting iron. According to the construction timetable, the general excavation works are expected to begin in December.”

No details are provided on the nature of the compensation or the number of people who will be displaced by the project.

The port is not the only major development on the horizon.  Work is already underway on Kribi’s gas thermal power plant, which is expected to become operational sometime in late 2012.

Beach at Kribi. Photo by Christiane Badgley

Is there a connection between the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline and the proposed industrial development around Kribi? That depends how you define “connection.”

In any case, as ExxonMobil documents make clear, locating the marine loading terminal just south of Kribi was part of a larger regional development plan: “A marine terminal located south of Kribi (between Kribi and Lobé Falls) is consistent with the Kribi Development Plan. The area south of Kribi currently has offshore oil production (installed production platform with FSO operated by Perenco Cameroon), a similar operation as proposed by this project. The area south of Kribi has been considered for use as a deepwater port. Onshore areas (inland between Kribi and the Campo Reserve to the south) have areas of known high value mineral ore bodies that may be developed/exported in the future. A proposal is being considered to build a dam at Newah Nuele to provide electricity to the Kribi area.”

Despite their best efforts, environmental groups, both local and international, were unable to stop the pipeline passing through the rainforest and on to Kribi. The world’s attention is no longer focused on Cameroon, but the iron ore mining project that will soon get underway 500 kilometers southeast of Kribi — the raison d’être for the deepwater port — will likely dwarf the pipeline and the marine loading terminal in terms of environmental impacts.

The Mbalam iron ore reserves, among Africa’s most important, are estimated at over one billion tons. A new railway line will transport the iron ore from the mines across the rainforest to Kribi’s deepwater port. An iron-ore smelting facility is also planned.

The development plans include references to Kribi’s tourism, but one has to wonder what will become of “Kribi la belle” in the coming years.

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