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21.06.2005 General News

ILO launches project take children from illegal mining sites

GNA

Obuasi, June 21, GNA - The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has launched a project to remove about 200 children from three illegal gold mining (galamsey) sites at Obuasi in the Ashanti Region.

An official of the ILO said under the project the children, who are between the ages of eight and 14 and mostly of single-parenthood and orphans, are being integrated into the formal education system. Their fees are paid, textbooks, school bags, footwear and school uniforms are provided. Arrangements had been made to give them additional tuition to catch-up with their in-school peers.

Those who are not enthusiastic about going back to school would receive apprenticeship training in their chosen trade or vocation. Their unemployed parents are also being assisted to go into income generating ventures to empower them economically to become more supportive of their wards.

Mr Emmanuel Otoo, Country Co-ordinator, ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), said during a field trip to Obuasi that they were working through the Youth Development Foundation (YDF) and in partnership with the Municipal Assembly as well as the communities to achieve the goal of total withdrawal of children from those hazardous sites. They have already completed the identification and counselling phases are now reached the point of putting them back into schools

Mr Otoo said it was unacceptable for children to fend for themselves and to some extent their families and be exposed to danger as is happening at the galamsey operating sites. The illegal gold mining is more vigorous at Ahansoyewodea where the people crack and pound stones stolen from AngloGold Ashanti's (Obuasi) concession and use mercury to extract the gold at a place they have named, the "base". The other two areas are Binsere and Sansu.

At Binsere the illegal miners operate at two highly contaminated abandoned waste dumping sites of AngloGold Ashanti, whilst at Sansu they go into underground pits with depths of about 300 feet. Mr Isaac Okine, Senior Project Officer of the YDF, said to ensure that the children do no go back to the illegal mines they have formed Community Committees to regularly monitor them. There is also a Municipal Stakeholders Committee composed of representatives from the National Youth Council, Ghana Education Service Department of Social Welfare, Ghana Police Service, the assembly and the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice to promote the welfare and development of children in the area.

Mr Stephen Kwaku Addai, assembly member for Anyimadukrom, a suburb of Obuasi, said poverty was the main driving force that had pushed most of the children into doing jobs.

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