Dima is 15 years old and like most of his
friends, his after school activity is spent digging in the abandoned mines around the
Donbass mining district in Ukraine. He does it to earn money for his family. (Interviewer)
What do your parents do? (Dima)
My mother doesn’t work. She has 2 small children. Father has left us. Along with his grandmother’s small pension,
Dima’s work supports 5 people. (Interviewer)
How much money do you bring to the family? (Dima)
All the money that I earn here which is between 30 and 60 dollars. Dima’s family is typical in this region
where half of the legally-operated mines have closed down.
The loss of jobs and lowered wages has caused many families
to turn to illegal small scale mines or ”Kopankas” to survive.
Coal is very near the surface in this region of Ukraine,
so a kopanka can be started anywhere. (Myhail Volynets, Independent Union of Miniers,
Ukraine) There are so-called family mines.
These are mines dug out of vegetable gardens, in the kitchen gardens of houses and grounds
or, for example, in the cellar/basement of the house.
It might be a burrow about 10-15 or more meters in depth and in such mines,
husband, wife and all the family members including children, work. There are at least 800 illegal coal mines
and probably more, where children work alongside adults in what the International Labour Organization
has called one of the most dangerous workplaces in the modern world. Owners of illegal mines recruit small teams
of miners who work without fixed hours in unsafe working conditions using primitive
hand-made instruments. Even the simplest safety measures: emergency exits, ventilation, gas
detectors and ceiling reinforcements are missing. The new government is making a special effort
to stop these illegal mines and the use of child labour by creating new kinds of jobs
in the region. (Pavlo Rozenko, Government minister, Ukraine)
and speaking about the region of Donets’k -in 2005, we hope to create 100,000 jobs,
and these are not necessarily connected to mining. Only 3% of those jobs will be connected
to coal mining. We want people to see that there are alternatives in other spheres of
the economy. For Dima and his friends, those alternatives
may finally slam the door shut on child labour in mining.