KINSHASA, June 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo’s southeastern mining heartland are boosting efforts to tackle child labour amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic could drive more families to put their children to work in mines, officials said.
Congo is Africa’s main producer of copper and the top global source of cobalt, accounting for two-thirds of global supplies of the metal used in smartphones and electric car batteries.
Mining accounts for 32% of Congo’s national output and the economy has been hard hit by the pandemic, which has slowed demand for metals and other raw materials.
The slump means mining workers are earning a fraction of what they did before the outbreak, and are more likely to take their children to work, according to activists and academics.
“Economic activity has been paralysed during this health crisis and this will have a negative impact on parents’ income,” said Mathieu Kazembe Sawana Ilunga, the official who oversees the economy and industry in the southeastern Lualaba province.