Child labour in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in Asia and Africa

Question

What data is available regarding the numbers of children involved? What are the supply chains? What data is available regarding the type of child labour involved in mining? What are the positive and negative implications of child labour?

Summary

This rapid review synthesises data from academic, policy, and NGO sources on child labour in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector in Asia and Africa. ASM refers to small groups engaged in low-cost, low-tech, labour-intensive excavation and processing of minerals. Therefore, a clear distinction can be made between industrial and large-scale (usually licensed) mining on the one hand, and artisanal and small-scale (often unlicensed) mining on the other. Small-scale mining also includes all lower segments of mining (both non-mechanised and mechanised) that are not conventional industrial mining operations (Schipper, de Haan, & van Dorp, 2015).

Children engage in a range of tasks in ASM, however not all of them are considered dangerous and often mirror the tasks they would undertake in agriculture. This is where there is a debate between agencies such as ILO and the UN, who consider all forms of child labour in mining the worst form, and academics, who argue the case is more complex. Moreover, ILO and the UN argue that child labour in mining prevents children from going to school, when many academics argue it often enables them to afford school. Academics tend to examine the cultural and societal elements of children working more generally within the context, whereas these larger agencies use a broader Western concept of childhood when examining child labour in mining, which can have implications for policy.

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Suggested citation

O’Driscoll, D. (2017). Overview of child labour in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in Asia and Africa. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.