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Children in Ivory Coast at risk in gold-mining, says charity

10 March 2023

Thiombiano Dioyadibi Emmanuel Benjamin/Tearfund

Innocent, 30, a former gold miner from Kokumbo, in Ivory Coast, is now a brickmaker and farmer. He plans to open his own hardware store after receiving business-entrepreneur training from a Tearfund Partner, La Ligue pour la Lecture de la Bible

Innocent, 30, a former gold miner from Kokumbo, in Ivory Coast, is now a brickmaker and farmer. He plans to open his own hardware store after receivin...

ONE fifth of children under 17 years old in Ivory Coast, West Africa, are in child labour — almost all of which is dangerous, including work in the hazardous gold-mining industry, Tearfund reports.

The Christian charity has said that increasing numbers of children are moving from employment in the agricultural sector, which is in decline, to working in small mines, where they are exposed to toxic gases and unsafe mine shafts.

The mines also contaminate the surrounding environment and water supplies.

New figures from Tearfund, published last month, show that more than 1.24 million children are working in the country, of which 97 per cent are involved in jobs classed as hazardous, including mining.

The charity is working with churches in Ivory Coast to discourage families from sending their children into the mines to earn money.

Tearfund’s Country Director for Ivory Coast, Richard Yao, said: “Through the partner, we train young people in entrepreneurship and teach them how to start a business on their own, supported with a small grant, so that they can change their life.”

It also works with churches to help young people to understand the dangers and that they can earn money by starting their own business, instead. “Through this, they can make a living and also transform their lives.”

Thiombiano Dioyadibi Emmanuel Benjamin/TearfundFidel (wearing red), 24, a gold miner turned farmer, works in Siemkro village, central Ivory Coast, in November, after training with a Tearfund partner to start his own business

Innocent was ten when he started working in gold mines, washing sand. He left after four of his friends were killed after being trapped in the mines. With Tearfund’s support, he has received training and hopes to open his own DIY store.

The head of church and supporter engagement at Tearfund, Graeme McMeekin, said: “The young people in Kokumbo have been shown a new way, which has opened up opportunities for them to change their lives and realise their full potential. Like Innocent, they have had their eyes opened to the possibilities that exist outside the dangerous mining industry, and instead they can have hope for the future.”

The Ivory Coast government has introduced several laws to prevent child labour, most of them previously concentrated on the cocoa industry. In 2010, it prohibited child-trafficking and the “worst forms” of child labour. In 2015, school was made compulsory and free of charge for all children aged six to 16, and the minimum age for full-time employment raised from 14 to 16.

In 2017, the government adopted a list of hazardous jobs prohibited for under-18s, as well as a list of safe work authorised for children aged 13 to 16, which they are allowed to do when not in school.

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