Experts and global actors from Africa, Asia and South America gathered in Manila to address child labour and poor working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines (ASGM).
The first-ever Inter-regional Knowledge-Sharing Forum on Child Labour and Working Conditions in ASGM of the International Labour Organization (ILO) served as a platform for dialogue.
Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, miners’ groups and their communities, and ASGM supply chain actors joined the forum.
Countries represented were Colombia, Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, France, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Italy, Mali, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.
“Jobs in artisanal and small-scale gold mines are often linked to poor working conditions, with limited rights and access to social protection, without a voice and freedom to join unions.
Miners risk their safety and health even without stable income to lift their families out of poverty. Of great concern are children working in these mines, which is one of the worst forms of child labour,” said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.
ILO estimates in 2011 revealed that 19,000 children work in 45 artisanal and small-scale gold mines in the Philippines. Children can be found inside mining tunnels or on surface collecting gold and hauling sacks of ore or smelting gold.
The sector is associated with many labour issues such as hazardous working conditions that have led to work-related injuries, diseases and deaths. Child labour is also present in different mining stages. Evidence from various ILO surveys and research studies show that mining is by far the most hazardous sector for children with respect to fatal injuries.
“We should continue to zero-in on families as they need to know the risks involved in sending their children away for work. Child labour is not the solution to the households’ economic problems, rather, it creates long-term problems. This forum is a step forward to be more responsive and to provide us with the necessary tools to address child labour and other labour issues in ASGM,” said Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The 3-day forum held on May 28 to 30, 2019 in Manila provided a venue to exchange knowledge, technologies, practices and challenges to put forward concrete solutions to address child labour and poor working conditions. The forum also looked at the impact of the sector on people and the environment.
“We are well aware of negative impacts of ASGM on people and the environment. Most of the operations in the sector continue to work without permits and mining practices are not covered by government regulation. This is mainly the reason why two of the worst issues in the mining sector – child labour and working conditions – are common in ASGM,” said Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Implemented under the ILO CARING Gold Mining Project (Convening Actors to Reduce child labour and Improve working conditions in ASGM), which is funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) , the forum linked issues of child labour and working conditions to decent work and compliance with Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work for workers, families and communities in the sector.
“The United States is proud to support these efforts through the US Department of Labor. The 3-year programme aims to reduce child labour and address working conditions in the sector in Ghana and the Philippines. This is one part of a broader effort by the United States to support human and labour rights in the Philippines, and beyond,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim.
Although there are various global organizations working on ASGM issues, concerns on child labour and other labour-related issues could be better coordinated, especially at the local level. Knowledge and action to eradicate child labour also need to be expanded in line with relevant international labour standards.
The International Training Center (ITC) of the ILO organized the forum, with support of the USDOL, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), DOLE, DENR, and BanToxics, and other partners.
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