Child labour in gold mining

Message at the Inter-regional Knowledge-Sharing Forum on Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mines (ASGM)

By His Excellency Ambassador Sung Kim, United States Ambassador to the Philippines at the Inter-regional Knowledge-Sharing Forum on Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mines (ASGM) Manila, Philippines, 28 May 2019

Good morning. I am delighted to join Director Hassan to welcome all of you to the Philippines. And I am honored to take part in this important conference. Thank you to the International Labour Organization and the U.S. Department of Labor for organizing this important event and to their partners, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and UN Environment for extensive support.

Special thanks to our Philippine partners, including the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Acting Secretary Ebarle, Assistant Secretary Caguioa, and Director Hassan, thank you for your leadership and partnership.

I hope this week’s events will create a platform for global players to learn about International Labour Organization standards and policy guidance as well as identifying new ways to decrease the prevalence of child labour, improve the working conditions for the adults and protect the environment in the artisanal small-scale gold mining sector (ASGM).

Congratulations to all twenty-one countries spread out across three continents - Africa, Asia and South America - for your dedication to this common effort. Although you experience unique challenges in each of your countries, we all have a common goal: to improve the quality of life of those who work in the ASGM sector and to lessen the detrimental effects on the environment from mining activity.

This sector remains an important source of income in many countries. In the Philippines, as many as half a million people across 30 provinces are estimated to engage in ASGM, and the sector provides economic benefit for many more Filipinos, often in the least developed parts of the country.

Across the globe, the ASGM sector is associated with a number of hazardous working conditions and other labor challenges. Workers in this industry are frequently paid below minimum wage, lack social protections, utilize methods harmful to human health and the environment, and are vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking.

I was especially disheartened to learn more about the prevalence of child labour in this sector.

This forum is an opportunity to tackle some of these challenges, identify ways to make the industry safer, more environmentally friendly, and more effectively regulated in a way that benefits communities.

The United States is proud to support these efforts through the U.S. Department of Labor’s collaboration with the ILO and local NGO Ban Toxics on the Caring Gold Mining project. This three year, $5 million dollar programme aims to reduce child labour and improve working conditions in the sector in Ghana and the Philippines. Locally, the programme focuses on communities in Camarines Norte and South Cotabato. This is part of a broader effort to support human and labour rights in the Philippines and around the world.

There is a lot to discuss, and I hope that the participants take advantage of this conference to build a robust network and share technical knowhow, tools, best practices, lessons learned and success stories. This network will provide a platform to help advance our common goal of protecting the most vulnerable and helping improve working and living conditions of those who work in the sector. We are committed to working closely with all of you to achieve progress on our shared goal.

Thank you and I wish you a successful conference!