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Buried Childhoods — Child Labour in Mining and Quarrying

Sharon Fawcett

Sharon Fawcett

Jestoni* quit school at age 14 in order to take part in small-scale mining as a means to help support his family. They had abandoned farming for mining because of frequent flooding in their region of the Philippines. Jestoni’s mother worried about his safety as he dug in mineshafts for gold and carried heavy sacks of rock for eight to 12 hours per day.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half (85 million) of the world’s 168 million child labourers perform hazardous work. Jestoni was one of the one million who work in mining.

The United States Department of Labor’s 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor indicates that child labour and forced labour is used to produce 29 products in the mining and quarrying sector. The top products in this sector, based on the number of countries using child labour in the production, include gold (18 countries[1]), coal (seven countries), and diamonds (six countries), but numerous other minerals, gems, and stones are also mined and quarried with the labour of children.

Nine-year-old Karim Sawadogo works with his uncle at a gold mine in Burkina Faso. Photo by Larry C. Price.

Nine-year-old Karim Sawadogo works with his uncle at a gold mine in Burkina Faso. Photo by Larry C. Price.

According to the ILOalmost all child miners work in artisanal, small-scale mining (ASM), beginning to help out as young as 4 and 5 years of age and working full time by the time they reach adolescence.[2] Artisanal mining is a low-technology industry where miners use their hands and rudimentary tools to extract minerals and raw materials,[3] with little protection from the inherent hazards of the work.… Read the rest