Was your gold mined by a child?
Some operations in Africa, Asia and South America employ kids for as little as $2 a day. Yet policing the exploitation is difficult in the porous global metals market.
The next time you think about buying gold as an investment or a gift, consider this frightening statistic: As many as 1 million children ages 5 to 17 work in Africa's small gold mines, earning as little as $2 a day.
The nauseating information comes from a heart-wrenching story in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. It describes a scene in Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest countries, where 30 children do this very dirty and dangerous job. It's also a problem in countries such as Ghana, Mali and Niger, among others.
"They smash boulders into pebbles and pebbles into grit with primitive hammers and sticks," the paper says. "They haul buckets of well water up the hillside and, pouring this water into shallow pans filled with rock and dirt, they swirl the muddy mix, looking in the silt for tiny flecks of gold."
Burkina Faso's mines are so rife with child labor that the U.S. government forbids its agencies from buying gold produced there. That prohibition, however, doesn't apply to private dealers, and given the porous nature of the international market, figuring out the source of a particular bit of gold can be difficult.
While it's unlikely that gold from Burkina Faso winds up in jewelry sold in the U.S., industry group the Artisanal Gold Council told the Inquirer, it's also "not out of the question."
The United Nation's International Labour Organization notes that gold mines in Asia and South America also use child labor in similarly dismaying circumstances.
"Children work both above and under ground," it says. "In the tunnels and mineshafts they risk death from explosions, rock falls and tunnel collapse. They breathe air filled with dust and sometimes toxic gases."
For its part, the World Gold Council has developed the "Conflict Free Gold Standard" to promote responsible mining practices, intended to ensure that the metal is mined without supporting unlawful armed conflicts or in violation of human rights abuses like exploitive child labor. The Council is made up of 23 companies responsible for about 60% of corporate gold production around the world.
Barrick Gold (ABX), the world's largest gold miner, was up 60 cents to $19.15 in afternoon trading. Rival Goldcorp (GG) was down 4 cents to $28.80. Both companies are based in Canada and are members of the World Gold Council.
Sadly, as the recent tragedy in Bangladesh showed, there are many workers in poor countries who risk their lives each day to earn meager pay.
--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter at @jdberr.
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StandsToReason....You said it and also explained it very well...An eye opener for some I hope??
Even brought up things I hadn't given a second thought to lately...Thanks,Tog.
I've been to some of the places you describe, maybe even seen worst;..?
Most was courtesy of the U.S. Military and I would take side trips on the local economy..
Always curious about other Cultures..
Yes many are far different then ours..
But we still have plenty of our own failings here, when it comes to some citizens and our children.
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