Mining for Mica
The majority of the world’s mica comes from India, more specifically the country’s eastern states. Jharkhand and Bihar, two regions in the country’s eastern states, are where the majority of the mining for mica happens. In fact, around 60% of the world’s mica comes from those two regions. Before mica ends up in shiny eyeshadow and many other makeup products, it passes through many networks’ middlemen and wholesalers; it also crosses many borders. Thus, it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of mica and the harsh reality that children frequently mine this mineral.

About Mica

The makeup industry is a prominent part of Western culture. Some common beauty products are powder, eye shadow and eyeliner. Upon close examination of what is in these products, the realization has emerged that they all have a common ingredient, mica. Mica, also known as muscovite, is a natural mineral. Because mica is a mineral, it requires mining. Mica has the appearance of flakes and is rather flexible. It is light in weight and relatively soft.

Mica and Child Labor in India

Children mine mica illegally in India as they have small frames and can easily access the minerals underground. These children generally do not have an education and are unable to attend school due to their families’ lack of funds. Children as young as 5 years old must work long hours in the mines to make money for their families. Estimates have determined that around 4,545 children in Jharkhand and the surrounding region are not attending school. Moreover, the hazardous work environment negatively impacts their health. Cases such as tuberculosis, skin infection, respiratory infection, asthma and head injuries are not uncommon. Many children have supposedly died while working in the mines. However, because mining is illegal, local officials frequently cover them up, thus making an actual fatality count rather difficult.

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is a foundation that strives to end all violence against and exploitation of children. It is doing so by ensuring child protection through research, innovations, awareness generation, promoting partnerships and participation. Since 2005, KSCF has been working in mining areas where children illegally work as laborers. It raises funds to send many children to school. It intends to rescue all children from mining and send them to school. KSCF regularly issues saplings to the children and encourages them to plant them. This is an effort to spread awareness of their environment.

There are 171 counselors in 150 villages of Jharkhand who create awareness against sending children for mining and other social issues. KSCF has freed over 3,000 children from mica mines and 80,000 children from child labor across multiple industries.

Though mining for mica is still illegal in India, many children and adults continue to do it to provide for their families. Moreover, many deaths have occurred but people have not reported them for fear of losing income. While India still produces mass amounts of mica, the help of organizations like KSCF should gradually help eliminate the use of children in mica mining.

– Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania’s President Samia Hassan Plans to Strengthen the Economy
On March 17, 2021, the vice president of Tanzania announced that her former running mate and former President John Magufuli had died of long-term heart problems. Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is respectfully called Mama Samia, additionally informed the country that she would be taking his place. President Samia Hassan is Tanzania’s first female president and currently Africa’s only female national leader.

President Samia Hassan

President Samia Hassan’s announcement marks a historic time for Tanzanians—especially women. However, the citizens of Tanzania are skeptical about how she plans to govern the country going forward, and Tanzanians have yet to fully learn how Hassan will differ from Magufuli as a leader. One key concern surrounds whether she will maintain Magufuli’s “skeptical approach” to handling the novel coronavirus.

In her first month as president, Hassan has prioritized economic growth in a variety of ways. She plans to strengthen Tanzania’s economy through the further development of mining and extraction in the country. In a televised address, she emphasized Tanzania’s need for increased foreign investment to encourage growth, namely in the mining of helium, gold and nickel and oil extraction. President Samia Hassan particularly emphasized the economic potential of helium, which could become a major market in Tanzania. The Rukwa helium project in southwestern Tanzania, which President Hassan currently supports, “could supply between 10% and 15% of the world’s helium needs for the next hundred years.”

Helium in Tanzania

The Rukwa project, which Helium One owns, possesses 3,590 square kilometers of land, making it “the largest known primary helium resource in the world.”

Projections have determined that President Hassan’s plan to capitalize on Tanzania’s natural resources will be successful, mainly because of the country’s natural resource abundance. In addition to the resources above, Tanzania contains both new and long-running graphite, uranium, coal and gemstone deposits and projects.

Oil Extraction in Tanzania

In addition to supporting Tanzania’s mining industry, President Samia Hassan is also in the process of passing new legislation which will lead to an increase in oil extraction in the country. She has signed three key deals with Uganda and the French oil company Total to lead the construction of a heated pipeline to transport crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast. The new project will be the East African Crude Oil Pipeline and expectations have determined that it will increase economic growth in Tanzania.

Overall, President Hassan’s plan to take advantage of Tanzania’s rich mineral and material deposits could facilitate economic growth for Tanzania, which she has expressed to be her main goal. After just more than a month as president, Hassan has already signed a major deal with Uganda on the construction of a new crude oil pipeline. She has used her new role to support Tanzania’s mining industries, most importantly in helium extraction which should increase economic growth considerably. President Samia Hassan has been quick to begin her work as Tanzania’s new leader, creating a positive example of female leadership for other African countries.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

One Health
For those living in wealthy nations, infectious diseases and foodborne illnesses are typically an inconvenience. Improvements in healthcare technology, including widespread vaccinations for once-deadly diseases, can render events such as the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly rare. However, in low-income nations, this is not the case. Around 420,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses, most commonly children under 5 years old in Africa and Southeast Asia. Here is some information about the causes of disease outbreaks worldwide and the means of disease prevention that people know as One Health.

The Situation

Infectious disease outbreaks have increased significantly from 1980 and include SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS, Zika and COVID-19. Additionally, up to 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they begin in animals and transfer to humans. Some animals, such as bats, are resistant to becoming ill and easily spread diseases that lie dormant in their immune systems.

Zoonoses are more and more common as humans become further integrated with the natural world. Reasons for the increase of zoonoses include:

  • Deforestation and Mining: Deforestation and mining destroy habitats and force animal populations closer to civilization. The World Economic Forum estimates that 31% of infectious outbreaks have a link to deforestation.
  • Urbanization: Urbanization can foster the dominance of disease-prone species such as white-footed mice.
  • Factory Farming: Factory farming harbors large populations of genetically similar animals in unsanitary conditions that are susceptible to disease outbreaks.
  • Wet Markets: Wet market merchants often bring exotic species out of their habitats and near humans.
  • Tourism of Wildlife: Tourism of wildlife, such as caves that contain bats, risks spreading diseases to humans.
  • Bacterial Infections and Antibiotics: While bacterial infections currently pose a minor threat due to the widespread availability of antibiotics, experts warn that modern animal agriculture practices, where farmers give antibiotics to livestock in large doses, are rapidly breeding strains of bacterial diseases resistant to antibiotics. Many of these strains are beginning to pose a threat in medical treatment practices.

One Health

Between foodborne illnesses, antibiotic resistance and zoonotic diseases, it is clear that the well-being of animals closely ties with the well-being of humans. This perspective of disease prevention is known as One Health. The One Health model necessitates considering major environmental and agricultural policy shifts, but people are already taking small steps to directly reduce disease transmission. Health agencies around the world are holding conferences to prioritize zoonotic disease prevention and conducting investigations into the origins of outbreaks.

In Thailand, a team of software developers launched a movement to monitor animal illnesses and contain possible outbreaks of zoonoses. Since 75% of rural Thai households have backyard animals, disease transfer is a major concern. The project, called Participatory One Health Disease Detection, consists of 3,000 volunteers using a smartphone app to report information about sick and dead animals to the project developers, who are veterinarians at Chiang Mai University. The developers are able to detect, investigate and quarantine potential outbreak risks. According to the Gates Foundation, an infectious disease could spread to every global capital in just 60 days, so detecting an outbreak early could save thousands of lives.

Keeping the human population safe from deadly diseases means acknowledging the connections between civilization and animal habitats, especially in high-poverty areas where habitat destruction from resource extraction such as deforestation and mining means that line increasingly blurs. The One Health model sets short-term and long-term goals for monitoring and restoring the health and safety of animals and the natural world.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

Africa's Mining Industry
When people think of natural resources, Africa may not often the first place that comes to mind. A lot of the continent is still developing while civil war and poverty riddle many of its countries. However, Africa is home to an abundance of natural resources such as metals and minerals. More than 100 mining companies currently operate out of South Africa alone. Additionally, Africa is responsible for about 20% of the world’s gold production and is also a large producer of other metals such as cobalt, copper and lithium. It is essential for countries to possess a raw material to trade in order for the continent to make the leap from developing to developed. Africa’s mining industry could be the crucial ingredient necessary for the continent to make that leap.

The Barriers

The lack of domestic companies and education are two major hangups preventing Africa from utilizing all of its metal and mineral reserves. Although Africa is home to valuable raw materials, many foreign companies have moved in to mine them. Additionally, it has not reinvested enough into local communities. The solution is to restructure how the foreign companies operate and slowly allow domestic companies to move in.

Foreign companies bring the knowledge and machinery necessary to tap into the mines’ full potential. However, African workers do not receive the opportunities they deserve. Foreign companies pumped in almost $20 billion to fund mining operations throughout Africa between 2015 and 2018.

One possible solution is for foreign mining companies to provide training programs and management positions to locals. With proper guidance, African natives can receive training to handle mining operations themselves. Thus, this would eliminate the need for a foreign workforce and would open up the floodgates for advancement within countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana where metals and minerals are plentiful.

A Major Opportunity

The electric vehicle (EV) market is perhaps the biggest opportunity for Africa’s mining industry. Africa is home to large reserves of cobalt, lithium and nickel. All of these are crucial materials for EV batteries. Forbes estimates that almost 40% of all car sales will be electric by 2040. In addition, several automakers have made the commitment to go totally electric by 2050.

It is undeniable that the world is making a major shift from gas power to electricity, and the demand for these metals has skyrocketed. If more domestic companies arise, Africa will have a major influence on trade on the world stage. This would give the continent immense bargaining power. Moreover, it would make Africa far more appealing to trade in the next few decades.

The Good News

Although Africa’s mining industry needs improvement, several reserves remain untapped. This means that there is still plenty of time to improve practices and open up even more jobs for locals. Almost all mining companies in Africa could be domestic with more government involvement and regulation.

A thriving local mining industry will open up opportunities and incentives for natives. Furthermore, local industries will feel more compelled to reinvest in their home countries than companies from overseas. The opportunity exists, African countries just need to capitalize on it.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Mining IndustryThanks to the abundance of mineral deposits in Zambia, investors have continued to flock to the country in spite of the pandemic-fueled economic downturn in many parts of the world. By deeming gold a critical mineral, the government is actively expanding Zambia’s mining industry by mandating that Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings PLC (ZCCM-IH), a mining consortium, “drive the gold national agenda.”

Productive Mining Partnerships

Zambia’s government is a major investor in ZCCM-IH. Array Metals and ZCCM-IH have formed a partnership through Consolidated Gold Company Zambia (CGCZ). Array Metals determined that the venture will immediately generate local employment for 300 people. Mining is expected to commence sometime in June 2020 and will lead to another increase in employment. The establishment of new and competing mining firms will be beneficial for Zambia by encouraging a rise in gold production, increasing the national GDP and creating new opportunities for local employment.

Potential Profits from Gold Mining

With an approximation of 16,500 pounds of gold (around $400 million in value) within gold ore in Mumbwa, Zambia, continued investments in the Republic of Zambia are indicative of an economically auspicious future for the country. The gold mine is situated in Central Province, Zambia, and had been shut down for years before exploratory studies revealed the previously undiscovered resources within.

Roughly $2.5 million in capital has been devoted to the beginning portion of the project alone, with CGCZ aiming for an initial yield of 3 metric tons of gold (about $150 million in value).

How Zambia is Improving the Local Gold Mining Industry

According to CGCZ’s CEO Faisal Keer, “CGCZ is partnering with various small-scale gold miners in the country by providing mining technical expertise, and providing access to earthmoving machinery and gold processing lines to kick-start and boost their gold production.”

Since the majority of local miners mine through the process of gold panning, one focus of another partnership between ZCCM-IH and Karma Mining Services is to improve Zambia’s local gold mining efficiency. While CGCZ is only operating in the Mumbwa and Rufunsa districts of Zambia, there are more than 60 sites for gold mining. Local miners have also partnered with other foreign investors.

Although there is no official documentation, some have profited off illegally mining and smuggling gold out of Zambia. The government’s newfound focus on Zambia’s local gold mining has the perk of bringing lawfulness to a previously unformalized industry. In that spirit, the “government has given artisanal miners gold panning certificates to legalize their alluvial or riverbed gold mining activities.”

By supplying licensed miners with machinery, equipment, and knowledge about the industry through ZCCM-IH and CGCZ, Zambians are encouraged to participate in Zambia’s local gold mining. The formalizing of the gold mining industry will benefit more than Zambia, for it will enable licensed miners and locals to “reap the benefits of the assets under Zambian soil.”

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Madagascar
Despite Madagascar’s 74 percent poverty rate in 2019, the small African country has one of the fastest growth rates in the world. GDP growth hovered around 5 percent in 2018 and 2019 and projections determine that it will remain at that rate in 2020 and 2021. Public and private investments in infrastructure, mining, energy and tourism helped drive the country’s recent economic growth. However, poverty still remains high, especially in the more than 60 percent of the total population that works in agriculture. Increased economic growth in Madagascar is drawing international investors to open businesses in the country, creating jobs and stimulating further growth in the developing nation.

Current State of Business

The main industry in Madagascar is agriculture. About 80 percent of Malagasy work in agriculture and approximately 86 percent of that number are in poverty. In addition, the country relies heavily on vanilla exports. The African nation is the world’s largest vanilla producer. Transitioning out of agriculture and diversifying the economy could help spur development. In 2017, the Economic Development Board of Madagascar helped reform the business climate to encourage outside investors to expand to the country. This also entailed fighting against corruption and money laundering. With Madagascar improving the business environment, international businesses may see potential in expanding to the island nation.

International Mining

Mining is yet another area driving economic growth in Madagascar. Madagascar is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and ilmenite. There are more than one million jobs related to mining in the country. Additionally, 30 percent of export revenue comes from mining. Madagascar is abundant in ilmenite, zirsill and monazite. Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian company, is one of the large-scale mining companies. About 90 percent of Rio Tinto’s employees in 2018 was Malagasy. Although mining tends to be part of land degradation, Rio Tinto agreed to restore wetlands and biodiversity to its previous state after it completes mining.

Tourism Growth Resulting in Hotel Developments

Tourism remains an important industry that helped increase economic growth in Madagascar. More than 250,000 people visit the country annually to bring in $748 million in tourism revenue. The tourism industry grew by 20 percent in 2016 alone. Hotel development is one growing sub-category that could potentially add jobs to locals, particularly those seeking higher pay than they receive in the agriculture industry. The Economic Development Board of Madagascar stated that 11 percent of total employment is related to tourism.

More than 70 percent of visitors to the country stay for two weeks or more, expressing the value these visitors place on the economy. International hotel chains took notice of the increased demand for hotels in Madagascar. Radisson Hotel Group planned two hotels and one apartment complex in the country in 2019. All three buildings should open in 2020. Marriott International is opening hotels in many African countries, and one country on its list is Madagascar. Hotel and tourism growth could promise more jobs to Malagasy.

Clean Energy for the Future

The energy sector has even greater importance than tourism. Only 15 percent have access to electricity, which is one main impediment to economic growth in Madagascar. This holds back the country due to energy being one foundation to a developed economy. Schools, hospitals and other buildings require power to function at their maximum potential. As a result, the government of Madagascar set its goal high with the challenge of attaining 70 percent of electricity access by 2030. The country is already making progress to reach this goal. The country’s largest employer, Groupe Filatex, is building four solar power plants that will generate 50 MW.

As of 2019, Madagascar’s total capacity was 500 MW. Groupe Filatex employs more than 15,000 people and will add more jobs in the future to meet the high demand. Lantoniaina Rasoloelison, Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons, explained that the country’s energy policy for 2015-2030 supports the transition to the energy mix for electricity and lighting. This will include 80 percent of renewable resources.

Growth Ongoing

International investors such as Radisson Hotel Group and Marriott International took notice of economic growth in Madagascar within the last two years. Three sectors seeing growth in the country are tourism, mining and energy. Additionally, the government’s goal of increasing electrification is a good next step to growing the country into a developed economy with less poverty and increased livelihoods. The addition of more jobs to these industries could reduce poverty.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa
Many are moving to eradicate child labor in Africa by 2025. According to The International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO), child labor defines any hazardous work depriving children of their childhood and their education. Africa is the continent with the highest child labor rates at 72.1 million children to date. However, it has also seen an increase in awareness and a shift toward eradicating the practice. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Africa and the progress people are making to eradicate it.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa

  1. Eradicating Child Labor: One in five children is employed against their will in quarries, farms and mines. However, efforts to eradicate child labor have been valiant in areas such as building schools, supporting agricultural cooperatives, advising farmers on better production methods and paying farmers more for production.
  2. Child Labor End Date: Sub-Saharan Africa employs 59 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the ILO. Eradication initiatives such as Alliance 8.7 proposed 2025 as the desired end date of child labor in Africa. For example, Uganda, Tanzania and Togo have made progress by training 25 child ambassadors and providing education to child labor employers on the negative impacts of employing children.
  3. Hazardous Work: In Africa, 31.4 million children are in hazardous work including forced labor, prostitution and working in mines. There are 168 million children globally in farm labor, 98 million in agriculture and 12 million in manufacturing. The largest commodities that child labor produces are gold, tobacco, banana, sugarcane, cotton, rubber and cocoa.
  4. The Cocoa Industry: In 2015, the U.S. Labor Department reported that over 2 million children worked on cocoa farms in West Africa. Chocolate companies like Mars, Hershey and Nestle have signed a deal to end the use of child labor in their chocolate production. Additionally, Fairtrade America offered farmers more money for certified cocoa, cocoa that farmers produce without child labor, to prevent child labor and alleviate poverty.
  5. The Harkin-Engel Protocol: According to Fairtrade and World Bank, farmers in Africa receive $1,900 and that amount is well below the poverty line for a typical family. Moreover, 60 percent lack access to electricity and UNESCO states that the literacy rate is only 44 percent. The Ivory Coast signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol to monitor and account for people involved in child trafficking, and eliminate child labor in the cocoa industry.
  6. Child Labor and Crises: Countries experiencing crises have the highest number of child laborers. These countries might experience challenging circumstances such as unemployment, lack of social services and extreme poverty. Alliance 8.7 elects the efforts and focus that delegates of the African Union, U.N. agencies and government officials’ support in combating social and economic issues.
  7. Child Labor and Family: Most child laborers do not receive pay and many often work on family-owned farms or companies because their families cannot afford to send them to school. Children often must work in communities suffering conflict, especially in the case where the main breadwinner dies. The Foreign Affairs Committee is working on legislation to address child labor and supply chains.
  8. Child Labor Ages: Fifty-nine percent of child laborers are between the ages of 5 and 11, 26 percent are between 12 and 14 and 15 percent are between 15 and 17. In a 2018 survey, a Tulane University Researcher found that people who were not the children’s parents brought at least 16,000 children to West African farms. Reports also stated that 40 percent of Burkina Faso children are without proper birth records and for that reason, no one has been able to identify them.
  9. Child Laborers Under 5-Years-Old: Child laborers under the age of 5 have also grown in number and they face hazardous work conditions as well. For example, they might spend the day doing hard manual labor such as swinging machetes, carrying heavy loads and spraying pesticides.
  10. Solutions: A better understanding of how people should implement policies and revise them are among the discussions taking place toward ending child labor. The Harkin-Engel Protocol, The United Nations, the United Kingdom Modern Act, Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, Anti-Slavery International and the African Union Action Plan are all commitments in place to end child labor and modern-day child slavery. Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act is to prevent imports from entering the U.S. that child labor has produced, while the African Union Action Plan aims to eliminate child labor in Africa altogether.

These 10 facts on child labor in Africa are examples of the progress toward eliminating child labor by 2025. Continued efforts in preserving the well being of children in Africa shows the nation’s determination in the total eradication of child laborers. Oversight and accountability will continue to play an integral part in its success.

– Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

The Power of Mining and the Future of Eritrea

Eritrea is a poor country located in the horn of Africa. Its high poverty rate of 50 percent is a burden on Eritreans seeking greater well-being. Although the country is poor, the mining sector has shown considerable promise for the future of Eritrea. The GDP growth rate increase from 2.2 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2011, which made it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world at the time. Its current GDP growth rate is high at about 4 percent. One reason for its high average growth is the mining sector.

Abundant Natural Resources

Eritrea has many natural resources that account for its growth, such as copper, granite, potash, gold and marble. The United Nations Development Programme believes the Colluli Mining Share’s potash project in Eritrea has the potential to boost its economy while also appealing to the country’s sustainability agenda. The Australian mining company Danakali and the Eritrean government share the project 50-50.

The largest known deposit of potash or SOP in the world exists in Eritrea. Globally, SOP is currently consumed at a rate of seven million tonnes annually. Seamus Cornelius, the Colluli company director, said that Eritrea could meet that demand for at least 30 years. With the implementation of the project, locals could find work at the mines, especially those in poverty.

Economic Effects

The U.N. report also reported the impact of the Colluli mine. Reports showed that SOP could make up to 50 percent of exports in Eritrean by 2030 and comprise at least 3 percent of Eritrean GDP by 2021. It could also have a strong impact on agriculture productivity, indirectly employing upwards of 10,000 people by 2026. Another positive aspect of the project is that it will not affect any animals or plants because the mine is located in an uninhabited salt basin.

China’s Sichuan Road & Bridge Mining Investment Development Corp. is also seeing potential in Eritrea, particularly in copper, gold, silver and zinc. Estimates determine that more than 574,000 tons of copper, 930,000 ounces of gold and 1.2 million tons of zinc could be found in four deposits near the city, Asmara. July 9, 2018, marked the end of Eritrea’s conflict with Ethiopia, which increased notice from foreign investors interested in Eritrea’s mines such as China. Due to peace between the two nations, the future of Eritrea appears optimistic.

The Ports Rehabilitation Project

The World Bank upgraded and rehabilitated two major ports in Eritrea, Massawa and Assab through a $30 million project that was approved in 2011. Results were substantial, particularly for the Massawa port. Bulk cargo handling exceeded the original target of 1,100 tonnes by hitting 1,457. This was a 71 percent increase from 850 tonnes per ship per day in 1997. Natural resources are a top exporter and the Ports Rehabilitation Project exponentially improved productivity and efficiency. It especially enabled easier access for petroleum imports into Eritrea.

Corruption and Privatization

Canadian mining company Nevsun Resource had a 60 percent stake in the Bisha Mine, which mines zinc and copper. Accusations of forced labor caused the company to appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court in January 2019. One of the largest gold producers in the world, Zijin Mining Group Company, acquired Nevsun. After the human rights incident, Nevsun began training its employees on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and now has an ongoing presence in infrastructure projects including water accessibility and supply in Eritrea.

Eritrea has one of the fastest-growing economies due to the strength of its mining sector. With the help of nongovernment organizations, external companies and other parties, the economy could become stronger. Growth from not just from the mining sector but also the agriculture sector would increase possibilities for the future of Eritrea.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Sierra Leone
Child labor is defined as work that harms children mentally and physically and deprives them of their childhood. Child labor is illegal in many countries, but some countries have found loopholes in their legal frameworks which enables the use of children in some of the toughest work environments. Sierra Leone‘s minimum employment age is 18, but it lacks the ability to enforce its laws. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Sierra Leone

  1. Child labor affects 72 percent of children in Sierra Leone making the grand total almost 900,000. The children are between the ages of five and 14, and most are young boys. Employers put them to work in alluvial diamond mines and tunnels, which the world knows as the blood diamond industry. They often work in the agricultural industry harvesting coffee, cocoa and palm oil as well.
  2. Since the majority of parents cannot afford to send their children to school due to distance, costs of school uniforms and books, teen pregnancy or fear of sexual abuse from teachers, some parents put their children to work in mines, plantations and farms. In worst-case scenarios, parents may even sell their children into child labor because of poverty.
  3. Children working in diamond mines typically only make $0.15- $0.60 per day if they do not have a contract. If an employer does contract them, a child’s limit is $2.10 per day. They do not fare well as rebel groups own most of these mines and they threaten children with violence if they do not work.
  4. Pools of muddy sludgy water or puddles infest most diamond mines which attract mosquitos carrying deadly mosquito airborne diseases such as malaria. The potential medical complications for these children do not stop there. Many suffer respiratory issues, malnutrition, starvation, headaches, eyestrain, dysentery, dehydration, diarrhea, cholera and sexually transmitted diseases from their involvement in the fishing and mining industries, and sexual exploitation.
  5. The amount of child trafficking, sexual abuse and rape in Sierra Leone has provoked President Julius Maada to declare that Sierra Leone is in a state of emergency. In 2018, people reported 8,500 instances, and a third of these cases involved minors. Sierra Leone’s First Lady and other activists have suggested that that number may be higher because people do not report all instances.
  6. Sierra Leone’s economic growth heavily depends on diamond mining, which amounts to approximately half of its international exports.
  7. In the year 2013 and 2014, Tulane University’s study determined that there was a 51 percent rise in the illegal use of children working in the cocoa industry. Child labor drives the cocoa industry not only in Sierra Leone but also Cameroon, Guinea and Ghana. Some industry members claim that approximately 99.5 percent of child labor happens because of families rather than large corporations.
  8. Many disadvantages plague the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Once a case enters to the criminal justice system for further exploration, they do not resolve. In 2017, Sierra Leone’s government identified 34 victims of sex trafficking and it did not bring the culprits forth to justice.
  9. The National Child Rights Bill has been working hard since 2007 to exterminate child trafficking, early marriages for children and enlistment in armed forces to name just a few. It has done this by providing a framework for how to care for children.
  10. Children enlisted in labor often emerge with psychological illnesses due to danger and abuse. Mental disorder is often associated with disgrace or dishonor in Sierra Leone which affects all child laborers seeking help or guidance. Lawfully adequate mental health care services are tremendously scarce resulting in a 99.8 percent treatment gap.

Hope for Lives

Ending child labor in Sierra Leone will take more than just a village. Thomas Bobby Smith, a Sierra Leone native, founded Hope for Lives, a successful nonprofit. This organization delivered seven donated hematology and immunoassay machines to a local clinic and installed them. In 2013, it revealed the Hope for Lives Library at St. Anthony’s Primary School in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. The library included 15-20 computers, open to 3,000 students upon fair rotation. It also offered constant computer lessons taught by a tech leader and computer and printing services for public use. Hope for Lives is doing all it can to give Sierra Leone’s children and youth options for success. Thomas Bobby Smith kept his momentum strict and faithful by sending another 50 computers to Sierra Leone’s remote areas in hope of creating successful computer labs.

The implementation of the National Child Rights Bill and work from Sierra Leone’s very own President, Julius Maada, are making strides to end child labor. Organizations like Hope for Lives should help revitalize the spirits of children and youth as well.

– Niesha Braggs
Photo: Flickr

illegal mica minesIf you’ve ever used glittery lipstick or eyeshadow, there’s a good chance the products used contained mica, a brittle, shiny mineral which creates a glittering effect in everything from makeup to paint to toothpaste. According to the Responsible Mica Initiative, there’s a one in four chance that the glitter in that makeup came from an illegal mine that supported child labor.

Where does Mica come from?

Approximately 90 percent of the world’s mica comes from India, particularly from region of Jharkhand where the world’s largest mica deposits can be found. Despite its mineral wealth, the region is plagued by poverty and hunger. Of the 33 million people who live in Jharkhand, 13 million are living below the poverty line. This makes Jharkhand one of the poorest regions in India.

Almost half of the children there are underweight while nearly half of its children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth. In addition, illiteracy is also common. In the rural areas of Jharkhand, the percentage of women who are literate is barely more than 45 percent. Because of this poverty, child labor has become common. Having no other options, many families allow their children to find work instead of going to school.

The mica mines in the region, many of which are run by cartels, are more than willing to take advantage of this. While employing miners under the age of eighteen is illegal, it is estimated that around 20,000 children and teenagers in Jharkhand are working for mica mines. However, it’s hard to say if this is the true number, given that all of these children are working for mines that do not officially exist.

The Dangers of Mica Mining

Some of these children are as young as five, and the nature of their work leaves them completely unprotected from the danger of the mines. These “ghost” mines, as the illegal mines are sometimes called, operate without any sort of safety regulations. The hollowed-out caves often collapse, frequently crushing miners or trapping them underground.

While the true number can’t be found, some estimates claim that at least two to five children die in the mica mines each month. Many of these deaths are never reported because of the risk they would pose to the mica industry. One mica miner recalled the story of a woman who had fallen into the mines and died, but her death certificate claimed that the cause of death was a fall from a two-story building.

Even without that risk, other dangers include the risk of being stung by scorpions that hide under the rocks and cutting themselves. In addition, many miners end up breathing in silica dust, which can lead to silicosis, a chronic respiratory condition that leads to breathing difficulties and eventual scarring in the lungs. Many workers also run a high risk of contracting asthma or black lung disease.

To add insult to injury, miners usually receive a pittance for their work, especially underage miners. One child reported that his usual daily pay was about 50 rupees or less than $1. Worst of all, reports on illegal mica mining show that ghost mines aren’t an anomaly in Jharkhand. Some claim that at least 70 percent of the region’s exported mica is illegally mined.

The Solution

How will the makeup industry and makeup buyers distance themselves from the cruelty and corruption that supplies so much mica? One answer is to stop using mica or to ensure that the mica they use is ethically sourced. As the world becomes aware of the plight of the Jharkhand miners, this is what many makeup companies are doing. In January 2018, the company Lush began using synthetic mica, which is produced in a lab.

Other companies are calling for a more ethical supply chain. The Responsible Mica Initiative, an alliance formed between cosmetics companies including l’Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder, has the goal of eradicating child labor in mica production within the next five years. Along with their efforts to ensure that their companies only use ethically sourced mica, the Initiative is working with the Indian government and local authorities to empower communities in the Jharkhand region in hopes of cutting off the region’s dependence on predatory mica mines.

Cracking Down on Illigal Mines

Meanwhile, the Indian government has been doing what they can to crack down on illegal mines. After an ongoing investigation, including the investigation of several unreported deaths in the Jharkhand region, the Indian government has begun pushing to legalize mica mining again. If more mines become legal, the logic goes, they would have to allow for accountability regarding how they treat their workers and they wouldn’t be able to employ children or teenagers.

Many experts agree, however, that the key to stopping predatory illegal mines is ensuring that the people of Jharkhand do not have to depend on those mines to survive. This is what the Responsible Mica Initiative is aiming to do by empowering villages in rural Jharkhand. Its empowerment programs involve efforts to have more children enrolled in school, to educate people on alternate sources of income, to improve healthcare in villages and to strengthen local institutions.

In a region afflicted with poverty and crippled by its dependence on mica, the issue goes far deeper than simply eradicating illegal mines. However, with the persistance of makeup companies and organizations like the Responsible Mica Initiative, the region may be able to climb out of poverty and break the cycle of child exploitation that has plagued it for so long.

– Keira Charles

Photo: Flickr