Over 12,000 children rescued from illegal gold mines in Tanzania

Over 12,000 child workers rescued from illegal gold mines in Tanzania

Great efforts to 'liberate' children from the worst form of child labour have started paying off as Plan International Tanzania in collaboration with other stakeholders. (Image courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

More than 12,000 children as young as eight have been rescued from small-scale gold mines in Tanzania in the last three years, but the government admits the issue remains a “serious problem” in Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer country.

According to children's rights group Plan International the successful mission was possible thanks to coordinate efforts of police, government social welfare officers and NGO workers.

Since 2012 a total of 12,187 children aged between eight and 16 have been withdrawn from working in gold mines in Geita and Nyang'hwale districts in the north of the east African country, Jorgen Haldorsen, Plan's country director, told Reuters.

The practice of employing children to perform dangerous mining work is considered among the worst forms of the illegal labour, according to several international agreements signed by Tanzania.

"Child labour is a serious problem in small-scale mines," Azaveli Lwaitama, a political analyst and retired professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, told Reuters.

Lwaitama noted that minors would continue working in risky environments as long as poverty persisted. "More advocacy is needed to ensure parents understand the importance of education for their children," he added.

A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the precarious conditions faced by children employed at illegal mines.

The document claimed boys were being used to “dig and drill in deep, unstable pits” for shifts as long as 24 hours, while girls were subject to sexual harassment and were often forced to become prostitutes.

The practice of child labour in dangerous mining work is considered among the worst forms of the practice, according to several international agreements signed by Tanzania.

Early this month, another report by the same organization revealed that Ghana's mining industry has also been benefiting from child labour in unlicensed mines.