An estimated one million children work in small scale mining and quarrying around the world. These children work in some of the worst conditions imaginable, where they face serious risk of work-related death, injury or chronic illness.
In surface and underground mines, children work long hours, carry heavy loads, set explosives, sieve sand and dirt, crawl through narrow tunnels, inhale harmful dusts and work in water - often in the presence of dangerous toxins such as lead and mercury. Children mine diamonds, gold, and precious metals in Africa, gems and rock in Asia, and gold, coal, emeralds and tin in South America.
In rock quarries located in many parts of the world, children face safety and health risks from pulling and carrying heavy loads, inhaling hazardous dust and particles and using dangerous tools and crushing equipment.
ILO pilot projects have demonstrated that it is possible to eliminate child labour in mining and quarrying communities by helping them to acquire legal rights, organize cooperatives or other productive units, improve the health and safety and productivity of adult workers, and secure essential services, such as schools, clean water and sanitation systems.
The removal of all child workers from small scale mines and quarries is an achievable goal. On 12 June 2005, the fourth World Day Against Child Labour will be dedicated to finding a way to make it a reality.