In Burkina Faso gold mining is for many families the only way to make a living. While in the western world gold stands for luxury and extreme wealth, these regions still live in extreme poverty. Entire communities including children work as gold miners. Gold mining is extremely dangerous work as they dig vertical tunnels into the earth up to 100 meters.
Thousands of young men and children are found in the small-scale gold mines of Burkina Faso. In the tunnels and mineshafts they risk death from explosions, rock falls, and tunnel collapse. They breathe air filled with dust and sometimes-toxic gases. Above the ground, children dig, crush, mill, and haul ore – often in the hot sun. Some stand for hours in water, digging sand or silt from riverbeds and then carry bags of mud on their heads or backs to sieving and washing sites. In all mining sites, there is the risk of falling down through open shafts or into pits that are scattered around the area. Many children are born in and around the mines and have never seen a different life other than mining. Most children don’t go to school but help their families until they are also strong enough to go into the mineshaft themselves.