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Conditions in the mines are rarely safe, and Amnesty International reports that most miners work without essential protective gear, such as gloves, work clothes, or face masks to protect their skin and lungs from disease. The organization says at least 80 miners died in the DRC between September 2014 and December 2015, and many more become ill from working in the poor conditions.
To make matters worse, many of the miners Amnesty International interviewed were children who said they worked for 12 hours a day to earn a mere dollar or two. UNICEF says that approximately 40,000 children worked in mines in the DRC in 2014, and that the majority of them were mining cobalt.