Children reveal horror of working in mines, in new report

MISSISSAUGA, ON, May 22, 2013 /CNW/ - 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. Today, the development agency also released the supporting resource Five Things You Need to Know About Children and Mining.

"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 labour in mining."

Dangers of Mining
Mining is one of the worst forms of child labour. 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 colour 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.

Findings
Of the children interviewed by World Vision at the mine site in DRC:

  • 19 per cent of the children 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 of the children experienced frequent or persistent coughing.
  • Several girls reported experiencing genital infections after working waist-deep in acidic water.

"This is not the childhood Canadians know, with no time to play, nap or enjoy a family vacation. This type of hard labour is robbing children of their childhood," says report co-author Harry Kits, Senior Policy Advisor for Economic Justice, World Vision Canada.

World Vision's experience in Katanga echoes the warnings from the International Labour Organization about child health impacts 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.

As part of its Help Wanted: End Child Slavery campaign, World Vision has released Child Miners Speak to prompt wider discussions and attention to the issue.  The agency has operated in the DRC since 1984 and currently nearly half of the communities in its program areas have artisanal mining nearby.

Additional resources
Photos of child miners in DRC
Five Things You Need to Know About Children and Mining resource
A Tale of Two Children case study of two children

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Visit our News Centre at worldvision.ca

SOURCE World Vision Canada



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