May 22, 2013 — The brutal reality of children working in mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the focus of a new report by World Vision, released today. Child Miners Speak offers insight into the dirty, dangerous and degrading lives of more than 50 children working at an artisanal copper and cobalt mine in the country’s Katanga province.
“We wanted to hear first-hand from children and their parents about why they work in the mines and what it’s doing to them — physically, mentally, emotionally,” says Bob Kisulya, National Director, World Vision DRC. “This research is helping us to understand how the DRC governments and the international community can support these families and find solutions to child labor in mining. Given how much artisanal mining there is across DRC, we believe we are just scratching the surface of the real issues.”
Mining is one of the worst forms of child labor. Artisanal miners use their hands and tools to collect raw material, extract metal and sell it through informal channels. The heavy work can permanently damage a growing child’s bones and muscles. Minerals mined are often hazardous and exposure to uranium and mercury can have profound health effects. Falling down open mine shafts, being trapped or injured by collapsing tunnels, or drowning while mining underwater are all serious threats.
“Since working here, I have problems with my skin, body pains, and pain in my eyes,” said Jean, an eight-year-old who works alongside his mother at the mine where World Vision’s research took place.
“I am collecting blocks with green color for my mother… [When I grow up] I want to be a tailor,” said Dorcas, a six-year-old who mines for copper and cobalt with her mother and six siblings.
Of the children interviewed by World Vision at the mine site in DRC:
·19 per cent said they had seen a child die on an artisanal mining site.
·87 per cent experienced body pain and many had been injured.
·67 per cent reported frequent or persistent coughing.
·Several girls had had genital infections after working waist-deep in acidic water.
“This is not a childhood, with no time to play, rest or go on holiday with family,” says Kisyula. “This type of hard labor is robbing children of the childhood they have a right to.”
World Vision’s experience in Katanga echoes the warnings from the International Labor Organization about child health effects of mining:
·Children absorb and retain heavy metals in the brain more easily.
·Children’s enzyme systems are still developing so are less able to detoxify hazardous substances.
·Children breathe faster and more deeply, so can inhale more airborne pathogens and dusts.
·Children dehydrate more easily due to their larger skin surface and because of their faster breathing.
Notes to editors:
· World Vision has released Child Miners Speak to bring attention to the issues raised by children.
· World Vision has worked in the DRC since 1984 and nearly half of the communities it works with are located near artisanal mines.
· For copies of the report, or additional resources available, please contact Holly Frew at hfrew [at] worldvision [dot] org or +1.202.596.8509.