PAID CONTENT: How Canada’s mining sector is addressing children’s rights (The Guardian – June 29, 2015)

As early adopters of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, Canadian mining companies are pioneering models to support children and families

Canada is home to more than half of the world’s publicly-traded mining companies, which have more than 8,000 mineral projects across six continents – from exploration through to construction and production to closure. Many of these projects are located in the world’s least developed countries, where children under the age of 18 make up nearly half of the local populations.

These vulnerable children can be disproportionately affected by the impact of mining operations. They are more likely to be involved in accidents with site vehicles, are at a greater risk of violence from construction sub-contractors or security forces, and have lower tolerance thresholds to extractive emissions, putting them in grave danger from health and development complications.

They also risk not having a voice as they are often under-represented in stakeholder engagement and community relations. Children are more vulnerable and need particular consideration by companies.

A number of Canadian mining companies are supporting children and families through social investments in surrounding communities, but are also beginning to analyse how they can improve operational impact on the lives of children by changing company policies and practices. As early adopters of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, they are pioneering replicable models that will serve to advance child wellbeing and enhance the impact of their commitments to communities.

Identifying the impact of the extractives industry on children

Sherritt International operates a major nickel mine and processing plant in Madagascar, and, over the years, has helped support UNICEF education, health and child protection programmes in the country. As a result, 800 primary schoolchildren are benefiting from new facilities, 200 adolescents were trained to educate their peers on sexual health, and a child helpline has received more than 25,000 calls which resulted in 1,122 vulnerable children receiving child protection support.

Sherritt International has complemented these programmes by looking at its policies. It worked collaboratively with UNICEF to address children’s rights through a code of conduct, child rights training and contract clauses for staff, suppliers and contractors, and children’s considerations in security and human rights risk assessments.

Industry interest grows

Considering children during stakeholder engagement is of particular interest to several mining companies. During community consultations, children are often overlooked as a key stakeholder group. However, children can provide important insights on business impact that may not be captured through consultations with community leaders.

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