Colombia’s Ministry of Labor has created an alliance to combat child exploitation in Colombia’s impoverished mining regions, local media reported Wednesday.
With an investment of $9 million, and in collaboration with the US embassy and the Colombian Ministry of Mines, the project will seek to eradicate child labor linked to mining in Colombia.
According to the radio network, Radio Caracol, Colombia’s minister of labor, Rafael Pardo, said, “5.9% of child labor is related to mining, quarry work, electricity, water and construction activities. This project will play an important role in dismantling one of the worst forms of child labor, that being the dangerous work surrounding informal mining.”
Speaking with Radio Caracol, Benjamin Ziff, Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombia, also commented on the project,
“The projects compliments the efforts that have been made by the Department of Social Prosperity, the ICBF, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Mines, to put a stop to child labor.”
“I am convinced that with this alliance we will protect the real treasure, which isn’t mineral wealth or the country’s gross domestic product, but rather the sons and daughters that constitute the future generations of Colombia,” Ziff said.
Mining, particularly informal mining, is a contentious issue in Colombia.
A study released in February, which consulted 3000 people in 70 municipalities across Colombia between 10 January and 12 February this year, found that 66% of those questioned believe that mining is good for the country, but only 47% believed it was positive for their immediate municipality, El Espectador newspaper reported.
“There is a gap between the perception of national public opinion and that of the population living in the mining municipalities about the contributions of mining,” explains Carlos Lemoine, president of National Consulting Center.
According to the study, in the towns with mining production the perception changes with 64% of stating that mining is good for the country and only 51% for their immediate areas.
Even with some of the higher figures shown by the study, the legal mining industry within the country has a long way to go if it wants to change popular perceptions — largely due to the ongoing human rights and environmental issues caused by the industry.
Colombia’s broader mining policy has been fiercely criticized by miners, human rights organizations and the opposition politicians, who claim that the government is punishing informal and artisan miners while allowing multinational companies to run damaging large-scale operations with little oversight and light taxation.
MinTrabajo firma alianza contra la explotación infantil (Radio Caracol)