mining childrenA recent mining accident that killed 16 people at an unlicensed artisanal gold mine in Ghana underscores the need for tougher measures to end child labor and protect the safety of adult artisanal miners, Human Rights Watch said today.

On April 15, at around 6:45 a.m., a mud wall collapsed in a large open pit at a gold mine where over 20 people were working near Kyekyewere, Upper Denkyira East District, Central Ghana. A few of the miners were pulled from the mud with injuries, but 16 died. Among the victims was a 17-year-old boy named Abroso Kwabena Donkor, an orphan who had dropped out of school at 15 to work in the mines.

“Mining is one of the most hazardous types of work in the world,” said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at HRW. “Ghana’s government needs to get children out of those mines and make it a priority to regulate the country’s artisanal gold mining.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 members of the community near the site of the mine collapse, including 8 children who worked in or near the mine and 5 witnesses to the collapse, as well as government authorities in Upper Denkyira East district and the capital, Accra.

Children from nearby villages worked regularly at the accident site. Children as young as 12 carried and processed the ore and sold the raw gold they mined directly to local traders.

A third of Ghana’s children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. A 2006 International Labor Organization (ILO) study found that about 10,000 children were working in the country’s artisanal gold mines. Children who work in artisanal gold mining risk ill-health or accidents from deep falls into pits, collapsing pits, flying rocks or shard, dangerous tools and machinery, continued exposure to dust, transport of heavy loads, and the use of toxic mercury. Twelve-year-old “Ibrahim” described how he carried heavy ore and processed it with mercury. Asked whether he liked this work, Ibrahim said, “I don’t like mining anymore because of the way people are dying.”

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Last modified: 15/06/2013