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Areas of Expertise

Informal Economy

Informal Economy
© ILO/M. Crozet

Carlos, a small -scale gold miner

Carlos is a 28 year old mine operator. Every day he wakes up very early in the morning and reaches one of the many gold mines of his province. Carlos works with a group of 4 men: they spend hours, even days before finding gold. Carlos isn’t entitled to receive any form of social protection and his job is extremely dangerous, but he says he has to do it because he needs money to take care of his little brother. This activity also has severe consequences for the environment: most of the illegal operators use hazardous chemicals such as mercury causing water pollution, deforestation, wildfires and soil degradation. Carlos spends a lot of time underground, without natural light or ventilation and with little or no protection at all, with a high probability of contracting skin infection or other diseases – like cancer.

Carlos knows that the government issues licences to operate as legal gold miner: through formalization, he could work in better conditions, but he would be forced to work only in selected areas. The problem is that in his province, designated areas for gold mining are few, and some have very low level of gold: this is why Carlos prefers working informally.

In his country, informal gold mining is the second largest sector in terms of employment after agriculture, and profits are higher, which makes it a very desirable option. The presence of significant mineral reserves has the potential to generate substantial wealth and prosperity for the population, provided that the leadership exists to implement an industrial strategy that mobilizes the country’s extractive resource development in a manner that achieves a prosperous outcome for people like Carlos.

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