Washington, through its Department of Labor-Bureau of International Labor Affairs, has awarded the International Labor Organization a $5-million grant to reduce child labor in small-scale mining areas in Ghana and the Philippines.
The 40-month project was designed for the governments of Ghana and the Philippines and partner Manila-based BAN Toxics to work with stakeholders, including governments, business and civil society organizations, and directly with miners and their families.
The project aims to bring these stakeholders together to implement laws, policies and action plans to address child labor and working conditions in small-scale gold mining; increase access of artisanal mining communities to livelihood and social protection programs; and develop tools to increase transparency and monitoring of child labor and working conditions in gold mining supply chains.
Richard Gutierrez, a lawyer and chief executive officer of BAN Toxics, recently said artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) operations produce an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the world’s gold.
Between 10 and 15 million people, including four to five million women and children, do this work amid hazardous conditions.
Many are directly exposed to the mercury used to amalgamate gold; the process accounts for 37 percent of total global mercury emissions.
In the Philippines, an estimated 300,000 people work in ASGM operations, including several thousand children.
ASGM operations contribute as much as 80 percent of the country’s annual gold production, but the production comes at a high price: almost all small- scale gold mining in the country makes use of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
“Children are the biggest victims in small-scale mining,” Gutierrez said.
“Whether working in the mines or merely living with their parents in mine sites, they are routinely exposed to mercury and other hazards. Child labor must be stopped and alongside it, the use of mercury must be phased out,” he added.
BAN Toxics is an independent, non-profit, non-government environmental organization working to prevent toxic trade of products, waste and technology and devoted to upholding the rights of developing countries to environmental justice.
The group has been working on the phaseout mercury use in small-scale mining in the Philippines since 2009, beginning with the publication of a national study on ASGM operations whose results were used as inputs to the formulation of the National Strategic Plan for ASGM in the Philippines.
BAN Toxics, with funding support from Dialogos, UNIDO, Global Environment Fund (GEF), Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, US Department of State (USDOS), Takagi Foundation and Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), has been undertaking a program entitled “Eliminating Mercury Pollution in Small-Scale Gold Mining.”
JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ