WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday it has awarded a $5 million grant to the International Labour Organization to help reduce child labor and address hazardous working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Ghana and the Philippines.
The DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which awarded the grant, said the ILO will implement a 40-month project and work with the governments of the two countries and partner with Ban Toxics — an environmental group based in the Philippines — to bring stakeholders together to implement new laws, policies and action plans to address child labor and working conditions in small-scale gold mining.
Seventy countries employ an estimated 10 million to 15 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners who generate 15 to 20 percent — or 200 to 300 tons — of the world’s annual gold production, ILAB said.
“ASG miners are often poor and vulnerable, as they lack titles to their mines and legal work contracts,” the agency said. “They work under shoddy environmental and occupational safety and health standards, and they mine marginal and/or very small deposits. Many of them use mercury to amalgamate gold, which pollutes the land and local sources of water.”
There are an estimated one million artisanal and small-scale gold miners in Ghana and about 300,000 in the Philippines, according to the DOL.
“In both countries, tens of thousands of children work in underground shafts, carry heavy loads and use mercury to separate gold from sediment with their bare hands. These activities expose them to labor exploitation, physical injuries, harmful dust, and mercury fumes,” ILAB said. “Although Ghana and the Philippines have made efforts to tackle the situation, they have not fully enforced laws related to ASG mining and child labor, they have not formalized ASG mining activities or monitored gold supply chains, and they have not addressed poverty and social exclusion in ASG mining communities.”
The project also aims to increase the access of miners and their families to social protection programs and develop tools to increase transparency and monitoring of child labor and working conditions in gold mining supply chains, and seeks to promote the sharing of good practices among stakeholders in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. It will provide funds for pilot initiatives to develop new tools for reducing the use of mercury and exposure to it.
The agency said the new project will build on efforts to reduce child labor in the sector in Burkina Faso and Colombia.