Child Labour: Getting Kids out of Mines and into Classrooms

Child Labour in MiningJune 12th is the International Day to End Child Labour, and in a well-timed effort to push back against unethical labour practices, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has passed a landmark new treaty.

“Governments, trade unions, and employers’ organizations that make up the ILO overwhelmingly voted to adopt the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, which updates a widely-ratified, but outdated, 1930 treaty in order to better address contemporary abuses, including against migrants and in the private sector.” (Human Rights Watch, 2014)

The ILO estimates that 26 percent of all victims of forced labour are children, worldwide.

Approximately 21 percent of children in Mali are involved in labour and many of those in mining. In 2010, 29 percent of children between 5 and 14 were working in the Central African Republic, mining being a contributing factor to those numbers (Aljazeera, 2014).

Tragedies like the recent coal mining disaster in Soma, Turkey, where an underground explosion and fire killed 301 people, have turned a critical eye on safety, training, and labour in the mining industry. A study released by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) indicates that there are approximately 2,076 child miners in Turkey – children start work as young as fifteen.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Amidst the depressing reports are other organizations pushing against the inertia of established child labour. UNICEF is working slowly and steadily to get children out of Burkina Faso gold mines and back into school. Beginning in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act forced US companies to reveal their supply chain if they might be using conflict minerals, which has made militarized and unethical mines in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo less attractive to US industry.

Learn more about child labour in the mining industry from the ILO.

Image taken by ILO, shared under the Creative Commons Licence.

Joanna Gaskell is the Manager of Educational Media for EduMine, who coordinates online course development and production. She has a background in environmental consulting, communications, and multimedia.

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