6-Year-Old Children Mining Gold in Mali (Video)

Gold is being produced by thousands of children in Mali, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

At least 20,000, some as young as six years old, are working in primitive, dangerous conditions.

HRW is demanding that international donors and the Malian government take action.

The children dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore and carry, crush and pan ore. They also work with mercury, which is particularly harmful to children.

Those interviewed said they suffered regular pain in the back, head, neck, arms, or joints as well as coughing and respiratory disease.

“I work at the mining site. I look after the other children and I carry minerals. It is hard,” Mamadou S., a child in Baroya estimated to be 6 years old, told HRW. “I work with mercury. You mix it in a cup and put it on the fire.”

Most work alongside their parents, but others work by themselves, and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or engage in sex work to survive. Children come to the mines from other parts of Mali, as well as from Guinea, Burkina Faso and other neighboring countries.

Child labor in artisanal gold mining is common in many countries worldwide, particularly within West Africa’s gold belt.

Although Mali has a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor, it has taken little action, HRW says, and the mines are not being inspected. The president of the Mali Mining Chamber, a representative body for the mining sector, denied there was any child labor in artisanal gold mines.

Said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher:

Mali has strong laws on child labor and on compulsory and free education, but unfortunately, the government has not fully enforced them. Local officials often benefit from artisanal gold mining and have little interest in addressing child labor.

Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer. Most of the gold, worth around US $218 million, is exported to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular.

HRW found three companies at the end of the supply chain. Kaloti Jewellery International, based in Dubai, stopped buying Malian gold after they learned of HRW’s findings. Decafin, a Swiss company, said it would seek more information.

In 2008, Decafin unsuccessfully sued AP to stop the publication of an article showing that Decafin was buying gold from middlemen that in turn bought from mines using child labor in Mali.

HRW expressed concern about the decision of the United States to cut funding for projects aimed at ending child labor in Mali. International donors should support efforts to eliminate hazardous child labor financially, politically and with technical expertise, they said. They also want the International Labor Organization to revive its 2005 “Minors out of Mining” global initiative to eliminate child labor in the industry.

Watch: “The Price of Gold: ‘I don’t Care if I die’” on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams”:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Related stories:

The Girl Who Asked the UN to Save the World

Torture and Abuse in the Niger Delta

Does Your Cell Phone Support Child Labor?

Image International Labour Organization/IPEC

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Franking Machines
Past Member 1 years ago

Inconceivable points. Sound arguments. Keep going the truly amazing work.
gold roth ira plans

Franking Machines
Past Member 1 years ago

Inconceivable points. Sound arguments. Keep going the truly amazing work.
gold roth ira plans

Airplane W.
Airplane W.3 years ago

Big business for foreign investors, just saying.

Patricia Geraldes

It's amazing how people can be so cruel :(

Jutta N.
Past Member 3 years ago

And greedy companies exploit them resourcefully and financially.

Ana R3 years ago


KARLOLINA G.3 years ago

It would be nice if this news info constantly hit the news media and caused the price of gold to bottom out. Not only does their own government allow it but so does the rest of the world. Funny how a country goes to war because of oil and lets this sort of thing go on.

Mark Stevenson
Mark S.3 years ago

In our world, profits TRUMP human rights.

Lori E.
Lori E.3 years ago

No words. People are horrible.

Lilithe Magdalene

And we want to put our economy back on a gold standard. Ludicrous. It's a damn rock. And we are torturing children to have it. When will we wake up?