More than 80% of artisanal miners in Mozambique do not have protective equipment

Mais de 80% dos mineiros artesanais em Moçambique não tem equipamentos de protecção

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), only 17% of Mozambique's artisanal miners use some form of personal protective equipment, despite working mostly in precarious open pit excavations, searching for ores such as gold, or extracting construction materials.

The data are part of the first survey on artisanal mining in the country, conducted at the Government's initiative, in 2021, and now released by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The information reveals that 39,275 of the mining operators (equivalent to 17% of the total) wear personal protective equipment? with the majority wearing boots, followed by protective gloves as the second most used.

Artisanal mines in Mozambique are in the news regularly because of fatal accidents, usually due to cave-ins, trapped workers, or falls.

Security is difficult to guarantee, considering that even in the provinces with the most equipment, not more than half of the operators are using it.

In the country, 806,957 people are part of ?the artisanal mining value chain?, almost 60% of them performing jobs in the field as diggers, loaders, crushers, washers or helpers.

The census identified 2,162 artisanal mining centers, mostly in the center of the country, ?of which 1,577 are active?, with about a third dedicated to gold mining ? a mineral sought after by the majority of those who practice the activity.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), artisanal mines around the world account for 20% of the global gold supply.

In Mozambique, miners earn an average of 5,816 meticais per month and 70% practice the activity all year round.

Of the total operators in the sector, only 5,976 (4.3%) ?have any document that accredits them to practice artisanal mining?

In their survey responses, they indicated that the main problems in the industry are ?the occurrence of accidents (23% of responses), low use of personal protective equipment (17%), use of mercury (pollution) in gold processing (14%), and the involvement of children aged 5-14 years (2.2%)?

With regard to child labor, 5,080 children of both sexes aged between five and 14 are involved in artisanal mining," reads the document, according to the responses.

Minors are seen as an advantage to enter precarious tunnels because of their stature, causing them to trade school for an income that will help the usually large family.

The number may be higher than reported: last year, the Mozambican government estimated that there are 2.4 million children in child labor in the country, placing artisanal mining among the most flagrant situations.

An ILO study published in 2019 indicated that ?more than one million children are engaged in child labor in mines and quarries? around the world.

The first survey now released in Mozambique is a starting point for further work on the sector.

The atlas of artisanal mining in Mozambique, planned as a by-product of the census, ?will be prepared after the results of this operation are disseminated? concludes INE.

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