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Human Rights Abuses in the Gold and Diamond Supply Chain

Human Rights Abuses in the Gold and Diamond Supply Chain

An estimated 40 million people all over the world work in gold and diamond mining. A large proportion of these 40 million people work in small scale or artisanal mines which have very little to no machinery and are not regulated or monitored.


These miners are dependant on working in these small mines as a source of their livelihood. However, mining has contributed to human rights abuses. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other groups have documented a large range of human rights abuses and violations including


Child Labor at its Worst

There is no real figure but it is estimated around 1 million children work in artisanal and small scale mines throughout the world. These mines are in violation of international human right law which prohibits children to work underground, underwater or with dangerous/hazardous substances. Unfortunately these countries ignore these laws and expose children to extreme danger. Many children work in deep unstable pits; some have been injured or even killed in accidents. They often suffer from respiratory diseases from inhalations of dust. They suffer from chronic back pain from heavy lifting. Children are constantly exposed to toxic mercury from gold mining which is poisonous and causes lifelong irreversible brain damage. These violations have been documented by the HRW in Ghana, Mali, Philippines, Tanzania and Zimbabwe,



Forced Labor and Human Trafficking


Adults and children alike are victims of human trafficking and forced labour. Forced labour is understood as a situation where an individual works involuntarily.

If they attempt to leave they may face extreme violence and other abuse from the traffickers. They are forced to live under the mercy of them.

The HRW found worked were forced to work indefinately for a subcontractor of a Canadian gold mining company in Eritrea



Environmental Harm

The environmental devastation of diamond mining has been covered HERE.

Diamond & Gold mines have caused dangerous pollution through dumping of mine residue, leakage into the water system and accidents.

Canadian Mount Polley is a gold and copper mine which was reported to dump mine residue into a nearby lake in 2014. This caused widespread water pollution.

On average a small artisanal mine will emit on average 1,400 tonnes of mercury into the environment on an annual basis. Mercury is an extremely toxic and poisonous metal which is used in gold processing. Mercury causes life long irreversible damage to the brain & nervous system. It is very common for people to die from mercury poisoning


Land Rights and Indigenous People’s Rights Violations


It is common for international mining companies and local governments to abuse rights of local residents in order to clear the land for exploration and mining.


In Marange, Zimbabwe the government forced all local villagers to up root their lives and clear the land for diamond mining. They were left homeless with a handful of their possessions and young families.


Indigenous people in some countries have protested against mining operations and as a result the have faced repression and even been killed. Amnesty International reported that the Mount Polley mining disaster in Canada negetively impacted the traditional livelihood of the local indigenous people by destroying their sacred lands and traditional medicines


Armed Conflict Violations, Including Killings and Sexual Violence


Gold and diamond mining trade have helped finance violent and abusive armed groups including money laundering. The HRW and other organisations have documented how the illegal gold trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo has benefited armed groups responsible for horrific crimes against civilians, including massacres and systemation sexual violence. Other research shows the link between diamond mining and human rights abuses in conflict-torn Central African Republic. Here, armed groups are responsible for killings of civilians and other war crimes including competing rebels attacking the diamonds mines to control the business. In November 2016, whilst fighting for control over the roads leading to the diamond mines around Kalanga, one rebel group deliberately targeted and killed Peuhl civilians in the area.