At least 40,000 children are estimated to be working in mines in the Congo as one of the symptoms of extreme poverty and systematic oppression. Friends of the Congo works in partnership with L’association Comité Afro Européen RDC in the old Katanga province to rescue children involved in the mining of cobalt and other minerals and help them access education.
Together, along with other organizations, we support the families who in 2019 filed a landmark lawsuit against Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Google, and Dell on behalf of the families of 14 children who had died or been seriously injured in cobalt mines. This 4-minute video provides an overview of the reasons for the lawsuit.
Child Labor in the Mines
The batteries of our cell phones, laptops, electric cars, and many other devices require a rare mineral called cobalt. This is a very precious mineral, with over 70% of world production originating in the Congo. Extreme poverty means that working in the mines is a necessity for some Congolese families, who are left with no choice but to send their children to work.
The children are found in the hundreds between the ages of 6 and 17 years old working in the mines, some working for at least 12 hours a day without protective equipment in deep underground shafts around 10 meters long, which they have dug themselves. Other children work on the surface, also without protective gear, collecting minerals that they find, sifting rocks and mine residue, sorting the minerals and then washing them to prepare them for transport. They are only paid 1 or 2 dollars a day and are exposed to many risks, for example: loss of schooling, fatal mine collapses, injuries caused by accidents, mercury poisoning and illnesses such as lung infections. This Al Jazeera short film looks at the extensive health impacts and birth defects from extracting cobalt. Parents and authorities feel challenged by this phenomenon but cannot find a solution due to limits of the appropriate means.
The L’association Comité Afro Européen RDC works to address the immediate issues that lead children into the mines by paying for their schooling, supervising the unschooled, and providing access to trades and training in masonry, electricity, and hairdressing. L’association Comité Afro Européen RDC provides the children with recreational activities and engages the families with income-generating activities. In 2021, we expanded the program by constructing a digital clubhouse to supplement the education of the rescued children with technology education and training. The clubhouse will be equipped with computers and Internet to facilitate access to information and resources via the worldwide web. We are located on the Fungurume – Kolwezi axe in the mines of TRABECO, KAFWAYA, ZAKEYO, KIMILOMBE, POSTOLO, KANSALAWILA and DISELE.
Should you wish to make a financial contribution to support the Child Miner Rescue Program, click the the ‘donate’ box on this page.