Child Miners Speak: Key Findings on Children and Artisanal Mining in Kambove DRC – (World Vision – May 2013)

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.

Executive Summary

Child labour is a highly complex problem interlinked with poverty, a lack of social services and alternative employment, education and health impacts, and exploitation. The challenge we have is to understand the specific circumstances and needs of working children and their families, in particular settings. From there, we can develop appropriate and effective solutions that address these circumstances and needs, and sustainably move children out of the worst forms of labour. Simplified calls to eradicate all child labour often ignore the complexity of the problem, the persistence of poverty, and the difficult choices children face.

Child miners in one community in the DRC’s southern Katanga province speak to this reality throughout this report. A key objective for the research was the direct participation by children. They themselves described the circumstances, impacts and drivers of their work as miners, as well as possible solutions to the challenges they face. This was then compared to, and supplemented by, parents, other community members, and mining stakeholders.

By listening carefully, we heard that:

Girls and boys are very much active as miners on the unofficial artisanal mining sites around Kambove. From an early age they participate in the full range of AM activities, from digging to washing and sorting.

Child miners in Kambove are not forced to work but choose to work. They are taught by parents as a means of supporting the family’s income in a situation of extreme poverty. Naturally, we recognize that children’s choices may be so socially
conditioned that they do not constitute “free choice.” Nevertheless the research clearly shows that many children choose work in the context of choices about family and are not overly coerced. However, there was evidence of children being taken advantage of in terms of payment and the conditions under which they worked.

Working in AM is intimately linked to participation in school. More than half of those child miners interviewed had dropped out of school, and those who were in school also participated in AM at least some of the time. The inability to pay school fees was a barrier to attendance. The exact cause and effect relationship between working in AM, school
participation, and inability to pay school fees was not fully clear in the research.

The health impacts of child mining are significant, including the immediate dangers of injury, as well as the long-term health impacts of high exposure to copper and cobalt minerals. Additional research and greater awareness among child miners and the community are needed.

At the Kambove artisanal sites, the impact of conflict or sexual assault is very limited compared to other locations in DRC.

Both child and adult miners consistently say they would prefer not to be working in AM. Children overwhelmingly preferred to be in school, and had high aspirations for the future, their career, and their contributions to the community.

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