The Covid-19 pandemic has hit small-scale mining hard, slashing incomes, exposing miners to greater risks and even increasing the use of child labour, says a new report issued on Tuesday.
The report, issued by Human Rights Watch, says that in some parts of Africa and other continents, “mining activity has been reduced or halted due to lockdowns and blocked trade routes. Where mining has been suspended, mine workers and their families have lost their income.
“Where mining has continued, workers and affected communities have been exposed to increased risks to their human rights. In some small-scale mining areas, child labour has risen.”
Citing examples of the impact of the coronavirus, Human Rights Watch says children have been put to work in greater numbers in artisanal gold and diamond mining sites in the Central African Republic and in artisanal gold mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Its adds there has also been an increase in illegal gold and diamond mining and trading in several countries, including Guinea and Ghana, partly because of reduced government monitoring and restriction on the legal movement of product.
“As a result, mining communities are at heightened risks of exploitation, abuse, and environmental damage by illegal mining operators...” the report continues.
“In East and Central Africa, while many trading houses shuttered, illicit trading networks thrived. Traders travelled to the DR Congo and Uganda to export gold from there, and illicit gold exports were reported to continue from the DRC through Uganda to the gold-trading hubs of Dubai and Istanbul.
“This illegal trade can exacerbate economic exploitation of local workers, money-laundering, and violence in conflict-affected countries such as Congo.”