Child labor in eastern Cameroon’s gold mines – by Moki Kindzeka (Deutsche Welle – January 5, 2017)

http://www.dw.com/en/

Children in eastern Cameroon leave school as young as seven to work in gold mines. Moki Kindzeka travelled to the mining town of Betare-Oya where residents have an uneasy relationship with the Chinese mining community.

The road to Betare-Oya in eastern Cameroon is better than it used to be. Five years ago, it was narrow and bumpy but in the meantime the surface has been tarred and the ride is much smoother.

Simon Estil, the senior government official in Betare-Oya, says urban development in the area is being driven by gold mining. He said there used to be a market just once a week, now the market is open daily and a second one has sprung up.

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Tech companies pledge to keep kids out of the cobalt mines that power your smartphone – by Peter Whoriskey and Todd C. FRankel (Toronto Star – December 22, 2016)

https://www.thestar.com/

WASHINGTON POST – Separate groups of the world’s leading technology companies are launching two initiatives to curb “the worst forms of child labour” and other abusive practices in the supply chain for cobalt, a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric cars.

About 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt originates in the Congo, where hand-dug mines rife with dangers attract legions of poorly-equipped, “artisanal” miners who work for as little as $2 a day

Apple, HP, Samsung SDI, and Sony have joined an effort, known as the Responsible Cobalt Initiative. It is being led by a Chinese business group, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Metals, Minerals & Chemicals, and supported by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the group.

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Flawed diamond regulations fuelling child labour in Congo mines – campaigners – by Kieran Guilbert (Reuters U.K. – December 21, 2016)

http://uk.reuters.com/

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The failure of European jewellery firms to scrutinise their supply chains and a flawed diamond certification scheme are fuelling child labour and sexual abuse in artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a campaign group said on Thursday.

Thousands of children work illegally in diamond mines in Congo’s diamond-rich Kasai region – mainly to pay for food and school fees – and girls who live around the mines are prey to rape, forced marriage and prostitution, according to Swedwatch.

Yet few jewellery firms have policies to assess the risk of child labour and abuses in their diamond supply chains, and many do not provide public information about efforts to operate responsibly, Swedwatch said in a report.

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[Child Miners] The dark side of 2016 holiday gift-giving – by Sally Greenberg (Huffington Post – December 8, 2016)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Holiday shopping season is already well underway. In fact, if you haven’t started putting your credit cards to use and checking gifts for loved ones off your lists, you might feel behind already. This year, Christmas-gift-purchasing Americans said they expected to spend an average of $831, according to Gallup—no small expense for most of us. And nearly one in three of us expects to spend $1,000 or more on Christmas gifts this year.

But there’s a dark side to the enthusiastic holiday gift-buying and giving that a majority of us doesn’t realize: many of the gifts we purchase to wear, eat, or use on a daily basis are made by the tiny hands of exploited child laborers aged anywhere from four to 17.

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In Mineral-Rich DRC, Widespread Poverty Is Driving Children to Work in, Near Mines – by Noella Nyirabihogo (Mexico Star – November 8, 2016)

http://www.mexicostar.com/

Global Press Journal – Despite the immense mineral wealth in DRC, people here live in endemic poverty. In Rubaya, a powerful evidence of that poverty is the large number of young children who have dropped out of school or who have fended for themselves from an early age.

A 2009 law prohibits all forms of economic exploitation of any person under 18 years of age, and some of the larger mines have removed children from their sites to comply with that law, even as they declined to confirm there were children working at the sites.

In addition to the DRC’s law, the International Labour Organization states that mining is one of the worst forms of child labor, calling it a “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”

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Canadian firm faces new forced labour claims over Eritrean mine – by Karen McVeigh (The Guardian – October 14, 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/

Dozens of Eritreans are to join a groundbreaking civil action in Canada as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources, which majority-owns the Bisha mine in north-west Eritrea, following a ruling last week.

Two of them – Kadane, a security guard, and Aman, an administrator – spoke out for the first time about what they claim they experienced at the mine: forced labour, horrendous working conditions and a climate of fear and intimidation.

“The mine was like an open prison,” Kadane told the Guardian. “They can take you and do what they want with you. I was owned by them. We were like objects for the government and for foreign companies to do with us what they wanted.”

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Forced labour lawsuit against Vancouver mining company can proceed – by Mike Laanela and Farrah Merali (CBC News British Columbia – October 07, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/

The B.C. Supreme Court has given the go-ahead to three refugees to proceed with a civil lawsuit against a Vancouver-based company they accuse of using forced labour in the construction of an East African mine.

The lawsuit filed by three former Eritrean conscripts in B.C.’s Supreme Court accuse Nevsun Resources of being “an accomplice to the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.”

The Vancouver-based miner had argued that the case should be dismissed and that any lawsuit should be heard in Eritrea, not Canada. But Justice Patrice Abrioux rejected that argument, concluding “there is a real risk that the plaintiffs could not be provided with justice in Eritrea.”

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THE COBALT PIPELINE – by Jorge Ribas (Washington Post – September 30, 2016)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers’ phones and laptops

The sun was rising over one of the richest mineral deposits on Earth, in one of the poorest countries, as Sidiki Mayamba got ready for work. Mayamba is a cobalt miner. And the red-dirt savanna stretching outside his door contains such an astonishing wealth of cobalt and other minerals that a geologist once described it as a “scandale geologique.”

This remote landscape in southern Africa lies at the heart of the world’s mad scramble for cheap cobalt, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles made by companies such as Apple, Samsung and major automakers.

But Mayamba, 35, knew nothing about his role in this sprawling global supply chain. He grabbed his metal shovel and broken-headed hammer from a corner of the room he shares with his wife and child. He pulled on a dust-stained jacket.

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Child labor taints production of batteries for electric carmakers, Amnesty says – by Lin Taylor (Reuters U.S. – September 29, 2016)

http://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Leading electric carmakers may be unwittingly using child labor to produce batteries for vehicles that have grown in popularity for using clean energy aimed at limiting global warming, Amnesty International said on Friday.

The human rights watchdog said cobalt used in lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles, phones and laptops could come from mines in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that use child labor. It accused carmakers including GM, Renault-Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, Daimler and Tesla of failing to map the supply of cobalt from mines in Congo to smelters and on to battery-makers.

As a result, electric cars sold across the globe could contain traces of the metal produced each year by informal Congolese mines without companies knowing, the group said.

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[Nevsun Resources] We were forced to work at Western-run mine, say migrants who fled Eritrea – by Allison Martell and Edmund Blair (Reuters U.S. – September 26, 2016)

http://www.reuters.com/

A Canadian company operating in one of Africa’s poorest countries faces compensation claims from some workers. They say they were military conscripts and suffered harsh conditions.

TORONTO/ASMARA – Bemnet Negash never got to say a proper goodbye to his family. In February 2006, government officials arrived at his school in the highlands of Eritrea and put him and his classmates on a bus to a military training camp. He was 20 years old, and still at school because a childhood illness had interrupted his education.

Bemnet’s father heard what was happening and rushed to the school. “He tried to pass to me my medication and some money through a window of the bus on which I was being taken away, but it was not possible,” said Bemnet in an affidavit filed with a Canadian court last year.

For much of the next five years, Bemnet toiled for the Eritrean national service, a massive conscription program instituted by the country’s autocratic ruler in the mid-1990s. The conscripts become not just soldiers, but an army of cheap labor, forced to work for years for little pay, according to the United Nations. The U.N. has said the program is “similar to slavery in its effects” – a claim the Eritrean government rejects.

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Exclusive: Jharkhand to crush ‘mica mafia’ by legalising mines to stop child worker deaths – by Nita Bhalla (Reuters India – August 8, 2016)

http://in.reuters.com/

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Authorities in Jharkhand will crack down on “mica mafia” by starting to legalise some mica mines, a senior government official said, after a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation revealed the cover-up of child deaths in illegal mining.

A three-month investigation in the mica-producing state of Jharkhand found that a flourishing black market had resulted in at least seven children being killed since June, mining for the prized mineral which adds the sparkle to make-up and car paint.

But the deaths went unreported as victims’ families and mine operators feared it could end the illegal mining of mica, the only source of income in some of India’s poorest regions.

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Global firms beef up investigations of Indian mica suppliers after exposé on child deaths – by Nita Bhalla and Rina Chandran (Daily Mail/Reuters – August 4, 2016)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

DELHI/MUMBAI, India, Aug 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – M ajor global companies buying the mineral mica from India vowed on Thursday to beef up inspections of their suppliers for child labour after a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation revealed children were dying in illegal mines.

A three-month investigation in the mica-producing states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh found at least seven children have been killed since June mining for mica, the valued mineral that puts a sparkle in make-up and car paint.

These deaths, feared to be just the tip of the iceberg, have gone unreported as victims’ impoverished families and mine operators do not want to end the illegal mining in abandoned mines and protected forests – often their only source of income.

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Thomson Reuters Foundation Investigation | Child workers trapped in mica mines – by Nita Bhalla, Anuradha Nagaraj and Rina Chandran (Thomson Reuters Foundation/Hindustan Times – August 3, 2016)

http://www.hindustantimes.com/

In the depths of India’s illegal mica mines, where children as young as five work alongside adults, lurks a dark, hidden secret — the cover-up of child deaths with seven killed in the past two months, a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation has revealed.

Investigations over three months in the major mica producing states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh found child labour rife, with small hands ideal to pick and sort the valued mineral that puts the sparkle in cosmetics and car paint.

But interviews with workers and local communities discovered children were not only risking their health by working in abandoned “ghost” mines off official radars, but they were dying in the unregulated, crumbling mines, with seven killed since June.

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‘Fireflies In The Abyss’ Is A Sobering Look At The Lives Of Meghalaya Coal Miners – by Suprateek Chatterjee (HuffPost India – July 7, 2016)

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/

Filmmaker Chandrashekhar Reddy recalls the first time he stepped inside a coal mining pit. It was in mid-2012, near Lad Rymbai, Meghalaya. It was pitch-black, of course, and he could feel the oxygen levels falling as he descended down a slippery wooden ladder, terrified that he might fall off.

When he got to the bottom, he realised he lacked the flexibility to actually navigate the tunnels, the so-called ‘rat holes’, which are barely big enough for a fully grown adult to crawl through. “I had to be put in a cart and wheeled around in turns by some of the other men working there,” he said, in a conversation with HuffPost India.
“Despite the lack of oxygen, I saw some of them smoking in there, which, from my knowledge, is quite dangerous, as every mining activity results in the release of methane, which is flammable.”

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Lacking proof, Mitsubishi unwilling to apologize to Canadian POWs [Mine slave labour] – by Iain Marlow (Globe and Mail – July 24, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

On Christmas morning, 1944, 23-year-old Corporal George Peterson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was told by his Japanese guards that he wouldn’t have to go down the Mitsubishi-owned coal mine that day.

Mr. Peterson, who had already spent three grueling years as a prisoner of war, said it looked as though the POWs were about to get a break from the slave-like working conditions. The guards first dragged out a fir tree, then brought out extra food for the famished prisoners, including riceballs and beer.

“They lined us up behind the table and took a picture,” says Mr. Peterson, now 94. But then “they said we could go back down the mine. … When we came up from the mine at about 5 p.m., the guards were laughing at us, saying the food was pretty good. We laughed right back, because we were trying not to let them know how much it hurt.”

Nearly 70 years after the end of the Second World War, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. has begun to issue historic apologies to POWs – but it has not yet apologized to Canadians.

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