Children Mining Diamonds in Liberia

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.

More and more children in Liberia are leaving school to work in diamond mines. Fifteen-year-old Mike Coleman dropped out of school several months ago. He left to search for diamonds in western Liberia to help his parents.

The country's Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy says [that Liberian diamond mines employ at least 1,500 children]. Nora Quae is the head of a Junior High School in western Liberia. She says [that more than 200 students, half of the school, dropped out this year to work in the mines].

Liberia's unemployment rate is nearly 85 percent. The World Bank estimates [that 95 percent of the country's population lives on less than $2 a day]. Work in the diamond mines is difficult and dangerous. But the possibility of earning $50 for each diamond is too good for many people to turn down.

Employing anyone under the age of 18 in diamond mines is illegal. But many mine operators are willing to hire children [who are small enough to fit into the narrow tunnels and tight spaces of mines]. Thomas Wleh heads the Liberia Mining Entity in western Liberia. He says [a worker's age does not matter to mine owners]. And he says [the operators do not force children to work for them].

But Mr. Wleh says [the Ministry of Education should put measures in place to keep students in school]. The United Nations Security Council helped ban the mining and export of so-called blood diamonds in Liberia in 2001 during the country's civil war. But the United Nations ended the ban in 2007. The diamond mines are again operating, increasing the demand for young workers.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Feb2013