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Human Rights Watch chides Tanzania for child labor in mines

According to a fresh report by Human Rights Watch, Tanzania has had a massive problem with child labor in the African nation's gold mines. The international watchdog spoke of brutal exploitation and sexual abuse.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Wednesday that thousands of children were being exploited in Tanzania's smaller gold mines with great risks for their health and livelihood.

It said children as young as eight worked in unstable pits in shifts of up to 24 hours, digging and drilling as well as crushing and transporting heavy bags of gold ore.

The watchdog based its allegations on interviews it conducted with miners in the Geita, Shinyanga and Mbeya regions.

"Tanzanian boys and girls are lured to the mines in the hope of a better life, but find themselves stuck in a dead-end cycle of danger and despair," HRW research fellow Janine Morna said in a statement.

Law enforcement lagging behind

She explained that child miners risked injury from pit collapses and accidents with tools as well as long-term health damage from breathing dust and being exposed to mercury, a toxic metal used to release gold from ground ore.

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The report also mentioned incidents of commercial sexual exploitation and risk of contracting HIV or other transmitted diseases.

Human Rights Watch said the employment of children in dangerous mining work was banned under several international agreements signed also by Tanzania.

"On paper, Tanzania has strong laws prohibiting child labor in mining, but the government has done far too little to enforce them," Morna added.

The east African country is the world's fourth-largest gold producer, with the precious metal being the nation's top foreign exchange earner.

hg/hc (AFP, dpa)

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