In 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated 53 percent of the world’s then 215 million child labourers performed hazardous work. Work in the mining and quarrying sector is the most hazardous labour children perform.
- According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) approximately one million children between ages 5 and 17 work in the mining sector worldwide.
- The ILO reports that almost all child miners work in artisanal, small-scale mining (ASM), a low-technology industry where miners use their hands and rudimentary tools to extract minerals and raw materials.
- The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) reports that child labour is used in the mining and quarrying sectors of 35 countries (2012 figures).
- Gold is the product mined in the greatest number of countries (18) with child labour, according to the USDOL’s 2012 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor.
- As much as one quarter of all children who work in mines worldwide do so in Africa’s Sahel (in Burkina Faso and Niger)—a semi-arid region that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Here, children make up 30 to 50 percent of the small-scale mine work force (according to ILO estimates). Seventy percent of these children are under age 15 (ILO 2006).
- The United Nations Children’s Fund points to poverty as the primary cause for child labour in ASM.
- Climate change and conflict are two factors that drive families formerly reliant on agriculture into mining.
- The fatality rate for child miners is roughly twice the rate for children who work in agriculture or construction (ILO), making mining the most hazardous sector for children.
- Mercury used by children to extract gold from ore—as well as the lead and uranium that often exist in ore with other minerals—is extremely hazardous to children. (For more information on hazards associated with this labour see “Selected List of Mining and Quarrying Tasks, Hazards and Potential Consequences.”)
- Child labour in mining and quarrying violates a number of international conventions including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (C182) and Minimum Age Convention (C138).
Facts compiled August 2013
For more on child labour in the mining sector, see my post “Buried childhoods: Child labour in the mining and quarrying sector.”
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