The U.S. Department of Labor lists a number of stone products extracted at the hands of forced labor and child labor around the world. In Egypt and Paraguay, child labor is used in limestone quarries, while in Nepal and Uganda, child labor is often used in artisanal quarries. According to the ILO, half a million stone quarry workers in Tamil Nadu, India are considered bonded laborers.
Unfortunately, India is ripe with these type of human rights violations despite the government’s attempts to eliminate child labor, for example, through minimum age requirements for work. The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights found that the sandstone industry in Rajasthan was built on the backbone of child and forced labor conditions at rock quarry sites. At every level of this supply chain, there is a lack of regulation and transparency, so when countries like the U.S. — which is the fourth largest importer of Indian sandstone — work with this Indian state, they bring millions of pounds of material to market that’s made possible through worker exploitation and debt bondage.
Also in South Indian granite quarries, child labor is a dire issue, according to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Germany, Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and China are major importers from this region. It’s also prevalent in the African countries of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Benin. As one of the most widely-used types of stone in building construction, promoting the use of slave-free granite is extremely important.
Global Slavery Index, India – Walk Free
A Guide for Ethical Sourcing of Natural Stone from Rajasthan, India – Ethical Trading Initiative