In Afghanistan, coal mining relies on the labor of children

In Afghanistan, coal mining relies on the labor of children

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A lad works successful a ember excavation northbound of Kabul. Afghanistan's state-run ember manufacture is going beardown successful an different shattered economy. Many underage workers are the ones who are extracting the coal. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

A lad works successful a ember excavation northbound of Kabul. Afghanistan's state-run ember manufacture is going beardown successful an different shattered economy. Many underage workers are the ones who are extracting the coal.

Claire Harbage/NPR

NAHRIN, Afghanistan — On weekdays, erstwhile astir kids astir the satellite are astatine school, 12-year-old Mansour is successful the mediate of a grueling displacement astatine the ember mines.

Deep wrong a passageway carved into the broadside of a blackened mountain, the young lad waits nether the flickering glow of his headlamp arsenic older boys pry ember retired of the world by pickaxe and hand, portion others shovel the piles into sacks strapped onto the backs of donkeys.

Afghans are bracing for a wintertime galore fearfulness volition beryllium adjacent worse than the last

From there, it is Mansour's occupation — from dawn until dusk — to pb the coal-laden donkeys retired of a labyrinth of crumbling tunnels down the upland successful this distant portion of Baghlan province, 180 miles northbound of Kabul. Here, the alleged achromatic golden is bagged and loaded onto trucks, mostly bound for neighboring countries.

"My household sent maine to enactment present past year," helium says. He's wearing nary protective instrumentality — nary mask, nary goggles, conscionable a brace of inexpensive rubber shoes he's sliced unfastened to fto his feet breathe, with toes blackened by ember particulate peeking out. "What they wage maine goes straight to my family."

Boys gain betwixt $3 and $8 for a day's enactment successful the ember mines. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Boys gain betwixt $3 and $8 for a day's enactment successful the ember mines.

Claire Harbage/NPR

The boys gain betwixt $3 and $8 for a day's work, depending connected however strenuous their assigned tasks are. Digging for coal, lining the brittle passageway walls with rickety wood frames, loading the trucks each gain apical dollar astatine the government-run mines.

They are enviable wages successful cruel economical times.

Even successful wealthy, developed nations with precocious technologies, dense machinery and readily disposable protective equipment, mining tin beryllium a unsafe and sometimes deadly job. In Afghanistan, wherever overmuch of the ember is mined by hand, each descent into the bowels of this upland is simply a gamble.

Miners instrumentality a interruption with their donkeys and portion beverage adjacent the extremity of a shift. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Miners instrumentality a interruption with their donkeys and portion beverage adjacent the extremity of a shift.

Claire Harbage/NPR

A twelve workers were killed successful January, aft 1 of the mines collapsed owed to dense rains. No one, from the young miners to mining officials and labour and humanitarian groups, seems to cognize oregon is consenting to accidental whether immoderate of those who perished were kids. But the mishap was capable to animate a caller ritual among the boys moving here.

Whenever 1 of them emerges from the tunnels, the others greet him with a tune from a artifact flute the boys walk astir during breaks — a humble solemnisation for making it retired alive.

Top left: Bags of ember acceptable to beryllium loaded onto trucks. Top right: A lad puts a guiding manus connected the cervix of a coal-laden donkey. Bottom: A antheral runs, urging donkeys to quicken their gait up the elevation to a excavation entrance. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Top left: Bags of ember acceptable to beryllium loaded onto trucks. Top right: A lad puts a guiding manus connected the cervix of a coal-laden donkey. Bottom: A antheral runs, urging donkeys to quicken their gait up the elevation to a excavation entrance.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Coal accumulation is expanding — and truthful is the fig of kid miners

Afghanistan's state-run ember manufacture is simply a uncommon agleam spot successful an different shattered economy.

When the Taliban returned to powerfulness past year, donor governments and planetary institutions withdrew billions of dollars successful assistance, triggering an economical and humanitarian crisis. Months of isolation prompted the cash-strapped Taliban authorities to ramp up accumulation and export of 1 of Afghanistan's much abundant commodities to countries similar Pakistan to assistance resuscitate the economy, which contracted past twelvemonth by astir 20%.

Coal exports accrued by astir arsenic overmuch successful the archetypal twelvemonth nether Taliban rule, according to the Ministry of Finance. Approximately 10,000 tons of ember are exported daily, according to the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum.

Left: Abdul Salaam, 17, has been moving astatine the excavation since helium was 9 years old. Right: Mansour, 12, began moving astatine the excavation past year, aft his parents sent him. Impoverished families are sending their children to enactment successful the 1 manufacture that offers jobs and a dependable wage. Children are much easy capable than grown men to compression into the constrictive mining tunnels and shafts. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Left: Abdul Salaam, 17, has been moving astatine the excavation since helium was 9 years old. Right: Mansour, 12, began moving astatine the excavation past year, aft his parents sent him. Impoverished families are sending their children to enactment successful the 1 manufacture that offers jobs and a dependable wage. Children are much easy capable than grown men to compression into the constrictive mining tunnels and shafts.

Claire Harbage/NPR

The Taliban authorities besides got an unexpected boost earlier this twelvemonth from Russia's warfare successful Ukraine. Disruptions successful state and supplies sent planetary request for ember surging, bringing depletion to levels not seen since a decennary ago, according to the International Energy Agency.

This cleared the mode for the Taliban to importantly summation duties connected exports arsenic good arsenic the terms of ember — "from what utilized to beryllium $90 per ton nether the erstwhile authorities to $200 now," says Esmatullah Burhan, spokesperson for the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum.

Not lone does the authorities person plans to physique caller roads for amended entree to China's markets, it's besides anxious to invited overseas concern successful the mining assemblage — for ember and particularly uncommon minerals and metals, including lithium.

A lad unloads a container from the backmost of a donkey aft coming retired of a mine. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

A lad unloads a container from the backmost of a donkey aft coming retired of a mine.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Left to right: Mohammed Asif Faisel, 22, Amir Mohammad Sharin, 33, and Shamsurrahman Mirzada, 32, person each worked successful the mines since they were underage. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Left to right: Mohammed Asif Faisel, 22, Amir Mohammad Sharin, 33, and Shamsurrahman Mirzada, 32, person each worked successful the mines since they were underage.

Claire Harbage/NPR

"Our doors are open, particularly for American and European companies," says Burhan. "The 1 information we have: If a overseas institution comes here, they indispensable person an Afghan partnership."

The concern has been dilatory to materialize. But with much than 90% of Afghans lacking capable to eat, galore impoverished families are seizing the accidental to nonstop their children to enactment successful the 1 manufacture that tin inactive connection jobs and a dependable wage. Children are much easy capable than grown men to compression into the constrictive mining tunnels and shafts.

A lad guides a loaded donkey implicit paths connected the steep upland wherever the ember excavation is located. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

A lad guides a loaded donkey implicit paths connected the steep upland wherever the ember excavation is located.

Claire Harbage/NPR

"Business is precise good, it's growing," says Jawad Jahed, the caput technologist who started managing the ember mines nether the erstwhile government.

Other than the summation successful production, the lone alteration he's noticed since the instrumentality of the Taliban is the fig of minors who've been sent to work.

"Kids nether 18 aren't expected to enactment here, but our radical are truthful poor, families person nary choice," helium says. "They nonstop their children to enactment due to the fact that they request the wealth and it's hard for america to crook them away."

The Taliban accidental they privation to destruct kid labor, but it's risen since they returned to power

In Kabul, an aged banner from the erstwhile authorities declaring a ngo to extremity kid labour inactive hangs successful the entranceway of the Ministry of Labor.

Ramin Behzad, the International Labor Organization's Kabul-based elder coordinator for Afghanistan, says it's a ngo the Taliban authorities has inherited and present supports, adjacent though the radical has a past grounds of recruiting kid soldiers.

A radical sits extracurricular the excavation aft a day's displacement is over. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

A radical sits extracurricular the excavation aft a day's displacement is over.

Claire Harbage/NPR

"They item that the elimination of kid labour is precise important and they privation to proceed to enactment connected that," says Behzad. "It's travel up successful each the conversations we've had."

But nether some the existent and erstwhile authorities, enactment and enforcement person lagged. A U.S. Labor Department report published successful 2021 recovered that "Afghanistan made nary advancement successful efforts to destruct the worst forms of kid labor."

While it's unclear however galore children presently enactment successful Afghanistan's mining industry, what is known is that kid labour wide has grown importantly successful the past year. A survey of much than 10,000 households by a conjugation of assistance organizations recovered that the fig of Afghan families with antheral heads of household reporting astatine slightest 1 kid moving jumped from 13% successful 2021 to 21% successful 2022. For families with pistillate heads of household, those figures accrued from 19% successful 2021 to 29% successful 2022.

Some children person ended up astatine the ember mines, moving astir the timepiece with nary extortion oregon committedness for a antithetic beingness ahead.

Several of the older boys astatine the Baghlan excavation accidental they person travel to presumption with immoderate destiny awaits them.

Mansour plays successful the ungraded connected the borderline of the upland wherever the excavation entranceway is located. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Mansour plays successful the ungraded connected the borderline of the upland wherever the excavation entranceway is located.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Donkeys dot the mountains adjacent the entrances to the ember mine. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Donkeys dot the mountains adjacent the entrances to the ember mine.

Claire Harbage/NPR

"It is the enactment of destiny," says 17-year-old Abdul Salaam. He's been moving present since helium was 9. "If it is my destiny to dice successful these mines, past truthful beryllium it."

But that destiny has already started taking shape.

At the extremity of a 10-hour enactment day, a fewer young miners beryllium connected a ledge overlooking this vast, blackened landscape. One of them pulls retired the flute.

He plays a mellifluous trill for a fewer seconds, past stops.

Boys beryllium connected the upland aft a 10-hour enactment time and play the flute. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Boys beryllium connected the upland aft a 10-hour enactment time and play the flute.

Claire Harbage/NPR

"Carry on!" the different boys impulse him, but helium can't.

He doesn't person the enactment to spell on.

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