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DRC: the difficult fight against child labor in mines

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                In the DRC, civil society in Kolwezi is concerned about the still persistent presence of school-age children on artisanal cobalt mining sites in particular.  Despite protective legislation, the fight against child labor in mines is not yet achieving the desired results.  The provincial Ministry of Mines says that efforts are being made to combat this phenomenon. 

                                    <p><em>From our special correspondent in Kolwezi,</em>

A raffia bag over his shoulder, 11-year-old Mica walks the avenues of the Kasulo neighborhood in Kolwezi in search of cobalt. In this poor neighborhood, artisanal cobalt mining is done in private plots.

Mica’s day starts pretty early. “I leave the house between 7 and 8 o’clock. I cross the avenues and plots where the cobalt is extracted and I pick up the remains of the cobalt abandoned by the diggers. Sometimes they demand money from us, we give them 500 francs and they let us collect the cobalt residues.Mica explains.

Heir is another child who works in this illegal Kasulo mining site. He is 10 years old. It is 3 pm, Mica and Héritier have each collected nearly 5 kilos of cobalt. They will offer them to Congolese traders, far from the microphone and the camera.

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► To read also: DRC: how to fight against child labor in mines?

Poverty and school dropout

« We use an old candy box as the unit of measurement. The kilo costs 1000 francs. Some days we can earn between 4000 and 5000 francs. In case I realize 5,000 francs, I’m happy, I give it to the family and they buy me a suit», Testifies Héritier.

One thousand Congolese francs per kilo is the equivalent of 0.5 dollars. The daily income for these children is up to $ 3. These children come from poor families and do not go to school, explains Mica. “This year I’m not in school because mum and dad said they don’t have enough money so they enrolled two of my older brothersHe said.

To date, hundreds of children work in the artisanal mines of Kolwezi either for the collection of minerals, for cleaning or for the small trade. To fight against this phenomenon, the Ministry of Mines in Kolwezi demanded coordination of the actions of partners involved in the fight against child labor in mines.

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► See also: Cobalt and child labor: the tech giants targeted by a complaint

Some results, but a challenge that remains important

For the director of the cabinet of the provincial Minister of Mines in Kolwezi, Eric Tshisola, there are already some results even if the challenge remains important. “We received children from the mines who told us “if we knew it, we couldn’t go to the mines”. Some have become welders, others have been recruited into companies because they know a trade, there are also children who have been brought back to school. But, it is not enough, because it is a cycle. As you remove some of the mines, others arrive. But “What makes these kids in the mines? ” This is the question we have to resolve and that is a question of state.»

And precisely, for the local civil society, the Congolese government as well as its international partners must rather strengthen the fight against poverty which, according to it, is the main cause of the presence of children in the mines.


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