Cablegate: Child Labor in the Drc's Mining Sector


DE RUEHKI #0629/01 2171426
R 041426Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Child Labor in the DRC's Mining Sector

REF: A) 07 SECSTATE 149662

1. (U) Summary: Child labor in the mining sector in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a significant and, seemingly, growing
problem (refs A, B). Other than the actions of a handful of NGO's,
virtually nothing is being done to address this issue. Government
inaction is particularly glaring. End summary.

Extent of Child Labor in the DRC Mining Sector
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) Artisanal mining - as opposed to working in an industrial or
semi-industrial mining setting - is dangerous, unregulated work.
Instead of industrialized equipment, miners use shovels, picks,
buckets, ropes, and candles and wooden laths (to shore up the

shafts). Shafts can be 60 to 90 feet deep and 10 feet wide,
excavated essentially by hand to extract marketable metal ore.
Artisanal miners often risk their lives for the USD 1.00 - 2.00 a
day they typically earn to support their families. Unfortunately,
many of these workers are children, and child labor in artisanal
mining is a huge problem in the DRC. In 2007, UNICEF estimated that
there were about 50,000-60,000 children working in artisanal mining
in the Katanga province alone, though many believe the number to be
higher, and on the increase. In Katanga, children are used to mine
copper and cobalt and, in the provinces of east and west Kasai,
diamonds. These child miners have no health or medical coverage and
are often exploited by buyers, security agents, and corrupt
Congolese government (GDRC) officials. Moreover, debt bondage,
child labor, and other human rights violations are often rife in the
mines. Most troubling is the situation in the east of the country,
primarily in North and South Kivu Provinces, where children are
frequently coerced and threatened to mine coltan, wolframite
(tungsten ore) and cassiterite (tin ore) by foreign and domestic
armed groups.

Causes of the Problem

3. (U) The perilous socioeconomic situation of millions of families
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the main causes of
child labor in the mining sector. Parents who cannot find work or
do not make enough to support their families are often willing to
take their children out of school (if indeed they go to school) so
they can work to contribute to the family's income. Moreover, child
labor in the mining sector is considered fairly normal in mining
communities, often because children have parents or older siblings
already there, and are often faced with familial and/or peer
pressure. (Note: Despite a lack of conclusive data, it is suspected
that former child soldiers, or children associated with armed
groups, in North and South Kivu who were not successfully
reintegrated into their communities have, in many cases, ended up in
artisanal mining. These young returnees often have no surviving
family, no education, and thus no choice but to dig in order to
survive. End note.)

Lack of Educational Opportunities

4. (U) The lack of a functional educational system in the DRC
contributes greatly to the high incidence of child labor. Because
children do not have access to, or cannot pay for school, they are
indirectly pushed into the informal labor sector. At the same time,
many parents are unable to justify paying for school fees while at
the same time giving up their child's potential contribution to
household income. Although the DRC Constitution clearly states that
primary public education is guaranteed, parents are often required
to pay for children's books, infrastructural and administrative
costs, and even directly pay their teachers' salaries. Some
children who work in the mining sector are simultaneously attending
school while also working part-time in order to be able to help pay
for their education.

Strategies to Combat Child Labor

5. (U) Most NGO's and UN agencies feel that the best response to
reduce the number of children working in the DRC mining sector is to
provide them with the free schooling they cannot now afford or

6. (U) As of June 2007, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors
approved an IDA grant of USD 150 million over 5 years to finance an
expansion of primary school enrollment, the rehabilitation of
education infrastructure, and to improve the quality of education in
the DRC. The foremost objective of the grant is to eliminate the
need for students to pay "motivation fees," as a way to cut the cost
of primary education. The Ministry of Education announced it would
begin paying teachers' salaries directly in 2005, but because of
budgetary constraints was unable to do so. IDA and USAID are
currently working with the Congolese government to fix teacher
payrolls, make school fees uniform across the country, and ban
corruption among administrators.

NGO's Addressing the Issue

7. (U) The Solidarity Center, along with Save the Children U.K.,
was recently awarded a U.S. Department of Labor grant of USD 5
million for 3 years to combat the problem of child labor in the DRC
mining sector through education. Save the Children U.K. is working
in three locations: Lubumbashi, Katanga Province (mostly copper and
cobalt related); Bunia, Ituri Territory, Orientale Province (where
mostly gold is mined) and Mbuji-Mayi, East Kasai Province (where
primarily diamonds are mined). The Group's target is 4,000 children
rescued per site, making the targeted total 12,000. This program
seeks to help not only those children working directly in mining
sector, but also those who are hand processing/concentrating ores,
and those who are sex workers and petty traders. Children will be
provided with three different options to pursue their education:
primary education (for those under 10), an accelerated learning
program (for those from 10-13) designed to bring some up to grade
level, and vocational training (for those from 14-17.)

8. (U) Since 2006, GroupOne, a Belgian NGO based in Lubumbashi and
funded by UNICEF and the ILO, has helped some 250 children under the
age of 15 to leave the region's mines and return to school full
time. In November 2007, the project provided vocational training to
250 children older than 15. (Comment: Given that there are likely
hundreds of thousands children working in the mining sector in the
DRC, it should be noted that this particular program is extremely
small in scale.)

9. (U) UNICEF and MONUC do not currently have any programs that
specifically address the issue of child labor in the mining sector.
UNICEF's center in Lubumbashi has been working to create awareness
about children working in mines, but has mostly been focusing on
problems regarding sexual exploitation and prostitution. However,
UNICEF says it is in the process of evaluating what needs to be
done, and hopes to develop a program specifically designed for this
issue in the near future.

GDRC-Related Policies and Programs

10. (U) DRC law is clear: children under the age of 18 may not work
legally. The Ministry of Labor, however, is severely under funded
and under staffed, so enforcement is weak and rarely applied. In
June 2006, it was announced that an inter-ministerial committee
would be created, the "National Committee to Combat the Worst Forms
of Child Labor," with the stated goals of developing and ensuring
the implementation of a national strategy to eliminate the worst
forms of child labor. However, the Committee has done little to
fulfill its mandate. The Committee has yet to nominate or confirm
its members or even formally establish a definition of the worst
forms of child labor. Moreover, it has not gathered or collected
data on the specific issue of children in mines, and is highly
dependent on the statistics and baseline studies of relevant NGO's.
(Note: The Permanent Secretary of the Committee has been working
closely with the Solidarity Center and the Save the Children UK
project, and states that this project is being carried out in
"collaboration" with the Congolese government. However, the
government does not provide support in the form of employees or
inputs to either organization. It is "collaboration" only in the
sense that the government is in favor of the programs. End note.)

11. (U) On July 15, 2008, a child protection law was adopted by the
Congolese Senate that prescribes severe legal penalties for those
who recruit or use children in armed groups, as well as for those
who participate in the sexual exploitation or torture of children.
It also guarantees children the benefits of all programs or measures
that aim to protect them from abuse, negligence or exploitation.
The bill is scheduled to taken up by the National Assembly in
September when Parliament reconvenes, the Assembly and Senate
versions reconciled, and then will hopefully be promulgated by the
President. (Note: The eventual promulgation of this bill would be a
step in the right direction for the GDRC, but it does not
specifically address child labor issues. End note.)

12. (SBU) Comment: Although a handful of NGO's address the issue
of child labor in the DRC mining sector, they are doing so on a
relatively small scale. Other than relying heavily on NGO's to
combat the problem, the GDRC's modest efforts to combat this problem
are cause for concern. Under certain conditions, children working
in the mining sector can be considered to have been trafficked.
Currently the DRC is on the "Tier 2 Watch List," for "failing to
provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in
person over the last year." The GDRC's seeming inability to even
create the inter-ministerial committee necessary to begin addressing
the worst forms of child labor in the DRC, much less to identify the
resources necessary to take action, does not inspire confidence in
the GDRC and its ability to solve this big social problem.

13. (SBU) Comment continued: Embassy Kinshasa's TIP working group
has developed an action plan to intensify diplomatic pressure on
parliamentarians to draft an anti-trafficking law and to engage with
ministerial leaders to raise awareness and develop the political
will and judicial capacity needed to ensure enforcement. The
working group also anticipates the sponsorship of public service
messages on anti-trafficking themes. End comment.


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