Authorities of Cameroon’s National Mining Corporation (SONAMINES) on Tuesday launched a project to stamp out child labor in small-scale gold mines in the country’s eastern region that harbors more than 300 mining sites.
The project dubbed “zero children in gold mines” will discourage children from working in minefields and enhance their education, said Jonathan Fru, deputy general manager of SONAMINES.
“SONAMINES is here today in an effort to support and encourage our children to stay out of the mines. We discovered that our children have abandoned the classrooms and now spend all their time in the minefields and this has jeopardized their education,” Fru told reporters while launching the project in the mining village of Kambele.
Officials donated school material and cash to support children and teachers to go to school.
“The project has just started. This is just the pilot phase. Our intention is to put our collaborators on the field to ensure that these children who have received this material use it in school,” Fru added.
There are no official statistics but local NGOs speculate that over 20,000 children work in gold mines in Cameroon.
In early September, the Cameroonian government promised to offer free primary education to children who leave the mines.
SONAMINES was created last year by a presidential decree to promote and regulate mining activities in the Central African nation.