This section focuses on the issues that are most likely to pose risks of child rights infringements for the industry. This is not an exhaustive list but only a selection of the key risks. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the documents listed under tools and guidance, especially UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
In-migration causing employment conflicts between the local population and migrant labourers: Throughout the life cycle of a mine or well, in-migration can lead to disputes around employment opportunities between migrants and the original population. These new opportunities might require language and technical skills that the local, indigenous population does not have. Companies should collaborate with local authorities and education providers to train the local population, especially youth, in skills that are needed for jobs on site and try to employ the local population before recruiting from elsewhere to ensure the local population benefits from the presence of the mine. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the In-Migration chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
Decent working conditions
Potential negative impacts of working hours, night shifts, long commutes and FIFO arrangements on family life: Jobs in the extractive industry are generally well-paid, but they are associated with high levels of stress and fatigue, caused by long hours, night shifts and working far away from family and loved ones. Stress and fatigue can lead to intra-household tension and violence, increased likelihood of work-related accidents and, ultimately, this might lead to employees’ discontent and increase workforce turnover. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the In-Migration chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
Extractive companies will have very limited exposure to marketplace impacts as they do not sell or advertise their products or services directly to children.
Community and Environment
Large scale extractives projects may result on the displacement and resettlement of local communities. A number of adverse effects have been identified in relation to this process:
- Inadequate consideration of children’s needs: Development activities of a mine or well have the most significant impact on local populations when they are required to resettle to another location. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the negative impacts of resettlement, including leaving schools, friends and extended families and communities behind. Not taking into consideration the specific issues children face and need, including their protection and psychological needs, their economic dependencies on local informal work, specific needs of vulnerable children (child-headed households, orphans, children living and working on the streets), might result in violations of children’s rights. Access to education, health care and other public services in resettlement villages might be limited or still in a developmental phase when families move, potentially resulting in disruption of educational progress, immunization schemes and, where mothers’ lives are affected by stress, this can impact breastfed babies and children.
- Insufficient compensation for the loss of agricultural and grazing lands: While families should get compensation for the loss of their land, this might not sufficiently replace what has been lost and might not take place at all. In addition, land titles might be communal or might not be officially recognised, especially in remote areas in developing countries, which can contribute to disputes over land and compensation rights. Single mothers or child-headed households are even more unlikely to have land titles, which is something businesses need to be aware of during resettlement processes.
- Land loss and in-migration leading to decreased nutritional intake by children: Families losing their land during resettlement will be forced to (at least temporarily) purchase food on the market, which is more expensive, especially following in-migration of labourers and their families. This can result in decreased nutritional intake affecting growth and development, especially of younger children. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the Resettlement chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
Case Study: Resettlement engagement at Rio Tinto’s Murowa diamond mine in Zimbabwe
As described in the company’s report: “In 2000, negotiations began between Rio Tinto, the government, NGOs and affected communities to establish mutual understanding and develop a co-managed approach for the resettlement programme. Special attention was paid to women and children, ensuring equal opportunities for all community members to participate in the consultation process. The process was approved by all affected parties. Negotiations were mediated by an external moderator and the community elected a representative committee, including representatives for women and youths.”
Environmental degradation and pollution
Children are more vulnerable than adults to environmental hazards including harmful chemicals and toxics; water, soil and air pollution are more dangerous for children because of children’s incomplete development and growth. They are also more exposed because of their hand-to-mouth behaviour and inability to read warning and hazard signs both off and on-site. Pollution risks do not only exist at an operational level but also further down the value chain, during processing stages as well as during mine closure, when toxic waste needs to be safely removed. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the Environment chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
Companies can be directly or indirectly responsible for, or complicit in, violations of children's rights through their approach to managing security on the mining site and around it. Understanding the context of operations, assessing risks and managing them appropriately will lower the likelihood of mining-related risks to children, as well as protect the company’s social licence to operate, reputation and business continuity.
- Security personnel in the extractive industry is most likely to interact with children as part of protests, theft, trespassing, vandalism and artisanal mining. Moreover, children may be recruited and used as public or private security or fall victim of child sexual abuse. The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights guide the extractive industry in ensuring that security and safety procedures incorporate respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Voluntary Principles do not identify step to protect vulnerable populations including children. In 2016, UNICEF, together with Barrick and the Government of Canada, developed the Child Rights and Security Checklist, which considers child rights criteria in salient areas of company and government security and human rights programmes.
- Violations by security forces against communities: Large extractive projects in volatile areas are often protected by state or private security forces, with no or little training on children’s rights. This can lead to violations of children’s rights, including sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as violence against children. In addition, security managers can arrest and detain parents for trespassing or participation in violent strikes and other potential violations, which might leave children unprotected in areas where they have no family or other caretakers.
- Children at risk of being recruited into armed groups and state / private security forces: Especially in countries where the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces is younger than 18, companies face the risk of children being recruited into state and private security groups that are guarding their operations.
- Artisanal mining can sometimes be led and owned by violent groups who recruit children into their armed groups to protect their assets and mines. Conflict between rivalling groups over ownership of mines can result in death or permanent injuries to children involved with armed groups. Large-scale mining companies that source minerals from ASM should conduct extensive due diligence on working conditions and child labour. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the Security chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
Risk factors for sexual violence against children can increase around large extractive projects. This can be caused by changing social environments and difficult economic contexts, including increased levels of poverty, high population density due to in-migration. However, low levels of basic child protection and rule of law combined with lack of knowledge about sexual violence against children also contribute to an environment in which sexual exploitation and abuse can take place. Throughout the life cycle of a mine or oil well, the labour force is predominantly male and often live without their families. Also because of the increased transport of goods, truck drivers are driving in and out, who again are predominantly male and without their families. These factors combined increase the risk to children of sexual abuse and exploitation surrounding operations of extractive businesses. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the Protecting Children from Sexual Violence chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.
In-migration can lead to limited access to education and healthcare for children and family members: Children migrating with parents are most vulnerable to disruptions in family livelihoods, and changes in their society and environment caused by rapidly increasing populations combined with a lack of community protection mechanisms. Parents migrating to look for work and seeking economic opportunities in booming mining towns, might find education and healthcare facilities unable to cope with the high demand, leaving children out of school and missing out on regular health checks and services. Also, growing towns around new extractive sites offer children whose parents are working limited protection, leaving children vulnerable in rapidly changing environments, with little community cohesion, child protection facilities or a social network families can rely on. For an overview of risks and recommended remedies, please refer to the In-Migration chapter of UNICEF’s Child Rights and Mining Toolkit.