In an established gold field, such as this one at Gangaol, the holes are dug closer and closer together. Occasionally, the excess digging creates weaknesses, causing the walls to collapse. Last year, four miners died when a line of pits too close to each other collapsed, burying the miners. Their bodies will never be recovered. Nobody is digging here anymore.
Abdul (14) is one of hundreds of children working at the Djuga mines. In the rainy season there is water to wash off the dust after a long day.
While everyone is laboring in the tunnels, crushing and cutting stones and paningfor gold the children are playing around the mines waiting for their mothers to finish working.
Sulayman (51) at his mine near Gangaol shows off his peace of gold. Small flake of gold on an broken heand ready to be legally sold to a government approved dealer at an official price.
Suleyman (51) is standing on the bottom of a hole which not so long was full of rain water. In the dry season he has to buy the water for panning.
The mines, as deep as 50 meters, are dug by hand by men, women and children.There are always ropes for the buckets of ore but not always for the boys who scrabble up and down the pits finding footholds and hand holds in the dirt walls. Losing grip here could be fatal.
Nuru (13) has been tasked to work at the pulverizing machine. He says: “Everything me and my brother earn, we take home to our parents”. He cannot recall how long he has worked here. He has never been to school and does not know how to read or write. However, he quickly says that mining is still better than working on the fields back home “you farm the land, but don t earn anything,” he says, adding that he is not afraid of working in the mines.
Nuru (13) cannot recall how long he has worked here. He has never been to school and does not know how to read or write. He is upset because his brother, who he works with, is angry at him for not processing enough material through a machine that they have to pay for daily. However, he quickly says that mining is still better than working on the fields back home “you farm the land, but don’t earn anything,” he says, adding that he is not afraid of working in the mines.
62 meters underground Mustafa (22) and four friends stand in the water up to their wastes, in a humid, hot claustrophobic pit, where they are silently hammering the solid rock with their primitive tools. They slowly poison their bodies every day with toxic dust they breathe.
Osman Django a government approved dealer from Bani is holding 183 grams of gold in his hand right after cleaning it with sulphuric acid to get rid of any impurities.
Meet Hamidu (28) just after finishing his first daily shift of digging at his site near Gangaol. His “office” is a 20m deep, narrow, dangerous and claustrophobic pit. The air there is thick, hot and humid, with constant thick toxic dust as he endlessly chips ore from the walls into a space he can barely move around in. Bani, Burkina Faso
Praying areas are often set aside to an entrance of the mines. Bandia (24) is praying near his pit before decending in to work.
The children, who have been working since sunrise, literally crash and lie down to sleep in the dirt beside the hole where they work. Nuru (13), and Kongo (15), are covered with just one blanket and lie close to each other to keep warm during the night at Gangaol site near Bani. Bani, Burkina Faso
Karuna (25) is using mercury to extract gold from the rest of the particles which is highly dangerous because this very toxic element is handled with his bare hands. Bani, Burkina Faso
The mines, as deep as 50 meters, are dug by hand by men, women and children.There are always ropes for the buckets of ore but not always for the boys who scrabble up and down the pits finding footholds and hand holds in the dirt walls. Losing grip here could be fatal. Bani, Burkina Faso
Tiabani (17) and his team have been digging a new pit for the past week. Currently at 5m. They hope they will struck a vein of gold soon. These pits become unusable in the rainy season because the ground here is dangerously fragile.
Babies are put asleep on dirty ground while their mothers are at work and children are laboring in the tunnels, crushing and cutting stones.
Nobila (18 ) grew up in a village in Jalgo, only 26km from the Djuga mines. He has been working here for three years. When he gets some money he always takes it home to his family.