Peru is the largest gold producer in Latin America and small-scale mines account for 13 percent or some 15 tons of gold a year worth $120 million. The work is labour-intensive and involves whole families and communities, including children as young as 6. In Peru, up to 50,000 children work as miners using old-fashioned methods to grind the ore.
Me, I work 7 or 8 hours. The problem is we are very poor so we help our father when he tells us to work. We have not one else to help us.
Children face the same dangers as adult miners, but the effects of accidents and injuries are more severe. For example, children have less strength to free themselves should a tunnel collapse. They are exposed to toxic chemicals like mercury and they breath in dust and silica which damages their lungs.
Gary: Former child laborer
When I was 8, I started by scavenging for gold for 3 or 4 hours every day. Or I looked for veins of gold. Sometimes I hauled ore in sacks that weighed 10 or 15 kilos.
But this no longer happens in Santa Filomena, Peru. Here, over 450 children who used to work in the mines are back in school.
With the help of the International Labour Organization a local group called CooperAccion helped the local community organize to eliminate child labour from the mines of Santa Filomena.
They formed a Miner’s Association and built a small processing plant to recover more of the gold. This created jobs not only for the men in construction, but also for women who opened small businesses.
Children should not work, they should study so they become something in life. So they can become professionals, not like here in the mine, not like our parents who are working in the mine right now, at this moment.