Collaborate to eliminate child labour in mining sector — ILO
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for stronger collaboration among government ministries, regulatory bodies and key stakeholders to, as a matter of urgency, eliminate child labour from the mining sector.
It said the ministries of Employment and Labour Relations and Lands and Natural Resources, regulatory institutions and stakeholders in the mining industry should collaborate towards that cause.
The Coordinator of the ILO’s Caring Gold Mining Project (CGMP), Mr Giovanni Soledad, who made the call, said the involvement of children in the small-scale mining sector was a threat to the future of the children and could affect sustainable national development.
"The ILO did a study about the involvement of children in the small-scale mining sector and realised that there are a lot of children in artisanal small-scale mining (ASSM) and performing the most hazardous kinds of work.
"The number of deaths from child labour in the mining sector is high because the children are exposed to mercury and other chemicals," he said.
Mr Soledad was speaking at the opening session of a one-week international workshop on eliminating child labour in African countries in Obuasi yesterday.
The workshop is a collaboration between the CGMP and Accelerating Action for the Elimination of Child Labour in Supply in Africa (ACCEL), both projects being implemented by the ILO in some African countries.
Participants at the workshop are drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Mali.
The participants from Ghana are from the ministries of Lands and Natural Resources and Labour and Social Welfare, the Minerals Commission, the Ghana National Association of Artisanal Small-scale Miners (GNASSM), representatives from metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in mining communities and community leaders.
The implementation of the ILO’s CGMP was begun in Ghana in 2018 and is expected to end in March this year.
The project rallied policy makers, actors in the ASSM subsector and community leaders to identify the root causes of child labour in mining communities, as well as find ways to address the challenges, in order to take children out of the menace.
The project was implemented in the Adansi North District in the Ashanti Region.
The ILO is also implementing the ACCEL project in Mali, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire, which have similar challenges, with funding from the government of The Netherlands.
The workshop in Ghana is meant to share knowledge on the impact the CGMP was making and how it could influence the ACCEL project.
Mr Soledad said eliminating child labour from the ASSM sector was a daunting task and that its accomplishment would require effective collaboration and the concerted effort of multi-stakeholders.
He said in order to eliminate child labour, it was pertinent that the government took steps to formalise the ASSM sector.
"Illegal miners under the ASSM, in its current form, operate in the shadow of self-regulation, without regard to mining regulations. This makes it difficult to address child labour issues. Therefore, a move towards the formalisation of the ASSM is critical if we have to end child labour," he stressed.
For his part, the Special Advisor to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benjamin Aryee, who read a speech on behalf of the minister, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, said the government was concerned about the involvement of children in illegal mining and would collaborate with the ILO and other development partners to tackle the menace head on.
He said the free senior high school policy by the government was one initiative that would help address the danger in the long run.
In addition, he said, the alternative livelihood project that involved distributing oil palm seedlings to mining communities, as well as the community mining programme, would together contribute to eliminate the threat of child labour.
Mr Aryee urged all stakeholders in the mining value chain to make the campaign to eliminate child labour from the sector a priority in order to protect the future of the country.