Congo-Kinshasa: Child Miners – The Dark Side of the DRC’s Coltan Wealth – by Oluwole Ojewale (All – October 18, 2021)

Laws and certification schemes aren’t protecting the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s most vulnerable – a fresh approach is needed.

Coltan is one of the world’s most vital minerals, and 60% of reserves globally are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Kivu province. In 2019, 40% of the global coltan supply was produced in the DRC.

The mineral is used in cell phones, laptops and other devices because of its particular ability to store and release electrical energy. As 5G technology grows, the demand for Congolese coltan will increase. But this is not good news for everyone in the DRC.

Much of the country’s coltan is extracted using the labour of over 40 000 child and teenage miners. Coming from remote villages and towns in Kivu, they either drop out of school or have never had the opportunity to attend. The informality of the extractive sector provides attractive job opportunities for vulnerable children, who serve as a pool of cheap labour.

Children work as washers and diggers in dangerous conditions. They also engage in petty smuggling, selling coltan for a pittance in towns along the borders with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Doing adults’ work in a hazardous environment, many child miners face harassment, abuse and ill health.

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