Child labour in mining and quarrying

Other Names:
Children working in mines and quarries

Mining and quarrying is considered the worst form of child labour under ILO Convention No. 182. The Convention addresses "work in hazardous environments, where children are exposed to toxic chemicals, dangerous machinery or extreme heat", among other dangers to child labourers.


In 2005, the ILO estimates that at least 1 million children aged five to 17 currently toil in small-scale mines and quarries around the world.

As outlined in a background paper released by the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), nearly all children involved in small-scale mining and quarrying are in so-called artisanal work sites. Often located in remote, hard-to-reach areas, the sites are difficult to regulate, thus hindering efforts to assist the children working there. Most often, children enter the mining and quarrying sector because they and their families are poor or due to lack of educational facilities. The areas where the small-scale mines exist offer few options for employment, and children are expected to share the burden of earning income for the family.

In some mines, children work as far as 90 metres beneath the ground with only a rope with which to climb in and out, inadequate ventilation and only a flashlight or candle for light. In small-scale mining, child workers dig and haul heavy loads of rock, dive into rivers and flooded tunnels in search of minerals, set explosives for underground blasting and crawl through narrow tunnels only as wide as their bodies. In quarries, children dig sand, rock and dirt; transport it on their heads or backs; and spend hours pounding larger rocks into gravel using adult-sized tools to produce construction materials for roads and buildings.

The health risks range from spinal injuries and deformities from carrying loads that are too heavy to potentially fatal rock falls and chronic diseases. These are compounded by the environmental hazards, such as the soil, water and air that may be contaminated with toxic substances like mercury. Clean drinking water, health services and schools are often unavailable, especially in the more remote areas. Even where schools and clinics are available, work obligations often prevent child labourers from enjoying their benefits. In addition, such work often puts children at risk for involvement in the drug and alcohol trade and in prostitution, which are also considered worst forms of child labour under ILO Convention 182.

Narrower Problems:
Child labour in cobalt mines
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST