5 pledge makers against child labour in mining

Mining is a hazardous industry that can involve long hours underground, taxing manual labour, and toxic chemicals

We’re highlighting some of the 2021 Action Pledges we’ve received. Get inspired by these short stories about how governments, UN agencies, NGOs, universities, organizations, tripartite partners, and many more are joining the global movement for children.

Why is mining so dangerous?

Of the 160 million children engaged in child labour worldwide, 79 million of them are performing

hazardous work. Mining is one of the industries the ILO has designated as hazardous, alongside, inter alia, quarrying and construction.

According to the 2021 Global Estimates on Child Labour, artisanal and small-scale mining can force children to work in deep underground shafts, haul heavy loads of rock and use toxic chemicals to separate minerals or precious metals from ore. 

Examples of child labour in mining

ILO research shows that, in Burkina Faso and Niger, 30 to 50% of the gold mine workforce is children, most under the age of 15 and some under conditions of forced labour. Other affected countries include Mali, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What are they mining?

In addition to gold mines, children also work in cobalt and coltan mines. These are the minerals used in portable electronic devices and rechargeable batteries, including those of electric cars.

More than half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where children as young as seven work in life-threatening conditions, subject to violence, extortion and intimidation. This cobalt has been traced to lithium batteries sold by major multinational companies.

Here’s what some of our pledge makers are doing:

Cobalt for Development (C4D)

Cobalt for Development (C4D) is a cross-industry initiative that includes the companies BASF, BMW, Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI and Volkswagen with help from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Their 2021 Action Pledge aims to support artisanal cobalt mining cooperatives to implement “zero child labour” procedures and address its root causes in communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These procedures may include updated miner registers, miner IDs, access controls and sensitization campaigns.

“The Action Pledge will support at least three artisanal mining cooperatives in implementing zero child labour policies. Furthermore, it will help to address the root causes of child labour in the project communities.”

Throughout the year, C4D will work in communities around Kolwezi to facilitate access to education, reduce poverty and improve financial literacy and incomes.

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International Trade Union Confederation

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is an organization based in Belgium. ITUC’s work on supply chains focuses on the sectors of mining, agriculture and manufacturing.

Their 2021 Action Pledge aims to build momentum for a new social contract in which parents enjoy quality jobs, social protections, and human and labour rights. They advocate for due diligence to hold companies accountable through their supply chains, especially in mining.

“We will escalate the demand for universal social protection with a global social protection fund to close the funding gap and to ensure families in our poorest nations do not face the heartbreaking choice of seeing their children forced to work for survival.”

Throughout the year, ITUC will help build global collective responsibility to ensure children have a childhood, quality education and bright futures.

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Global Battery Alliance

The Global Battery Alliance is a public private organization which was founded under the auspices of the World Economic Forum and has since transitioned to become a standalone platform.

Their 2021 Action Pledge aims to develop a digital “battery passport” to track child labour in the cobalt value chain and push policy makers to adopt best practices for lead-acid battery recycling, among other initiatives, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“Formalizing lead recycling would eliminate both the participation of children in recycling and eliminate the direct exposure they have and indirect exposure of children to lead.”

Throughout the year, the Alliance will develop new frameworks for action, mobilize stakeholders through newsletters and webinars, publish independent research, strengthen social services in DRC’s copper region, create apprenticeship and internship programmes, implement monitoring systems, and much more.


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Fundación Obra Social Montepío

Fundación Obra Social Montepío is an organization based in Spain.

Their 2021 Action Pledge aims to raise awareness about child labour in the mining sector through an itinerant exhibition in the Asturias region of Spain. 

“Our aim with the exhibition #GuajesMineros is not only to honour the memory of mining labourers and shed light on a part of this industrial history, but also to raise awareness among new generations.”

Throughout the year, the exhibition will be available for viewing in Museo Valey de Castrillón, Museo Historia Urbana de Avilés, or Espacio Cultural Liceo, Navia.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s Ministry of Mines is a government institution.

Their 2021 Action Pledge aims to set up a monitoring and observation mechanism for child labour in small mines. This action is one step toward becoming an Alliance 8.7 Pathfinder Country. The government aims to identify the number of children working in small mines, create a database, monitor the reintegration of children who are removed from mining sites, and more.

“To set up this monitoring mechanism, the government of the DRC, through the competent bodies, will carry out the process of creating the mechanism using a participatory and multistakeholder approach.”

Throughout the year, the DRC will organize training and capacity building workshops, draw up a new labour plan for the worst forms of child labour, and mobilize human and financial resources.

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