Tanzania struggles to end child labor from the lure of gold – by Krista Mahr (Reuters U.S. – April 3, 2017)


NYALIGONGO, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Three years ago, 14-year-old Julius left his family near the lakeside city of Mwanza, Tanzania, to try his luck mining gold. Today Julius is in no hurry to leave, despite having one of the riskiest jobs on a chaotic mine site – handling mercury each day with his bare hands.

“It’s good work. I’m paid well,” Julius, who only wanted to use his first name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, wearing an orange t-shirt and skinny jeans coated red dirt. Julius, now 17, said he has been working with mercury for three years – but no one had ever told him it was dangerous.

There are more than four million child laborers in Tanzania aged between 5 and 17, according to a government survey released last year in conjunction with the International Labour Organization. That’s roughly a third of the country’s children.

More than three million are doing hazardous jobs, including at illegal mines like the one near Nyaligongo in northern Tanzania where they are exposed to mercury, heavy dust, and work long shifts without safety gear.

The Tanzanian government is aware of the problem but has struggled to keep children out of small, unlicensed mines.

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