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Digging the Future
Life in the Burkina Faso artisanal gold mines
Yakuba emerges from the 5Om deep hole after another grueling 11 hour workday underneath the panorama of eastern Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, he and his team did not manage to find any gold today ... Last year his uncle and two of his friends died when a nearby mine collapsed. News? Not at all, it is a part of the everyday life in this part of the country.
What sort of a future is the barely sixteen year old Yakuba digging for himself as he and his companions keep bringing bags full of stones from the depths of the shafts - some up to 60 metres deep and incredibly narrow - and as he breathes the black earth full of poisonous lead, day in, day out? Future? Anything that keeps him from thinking about today or tomorrow: while grinding the ore, the heavy metals attack his lungs, find their way into the soil and into his drinking water. The gold might shine for the clients, but the mercury and cyanide that he needs in order to extract the gold destroy his body and poison the soil forever.
About 15,000 miners work in the area just around Bani. A third of them are children. They are the children of the mines. For many of them, the mines are their only home. And most have never been to school. The International Labor Organisation considers mining one of the worst forms of child labour because of the immediate risks and long-term health problems it poses from exposure to dust, toxic chemicals and heavy metals on top of back-breaking manual labuor.
Matjaz Krivic is a globe-trotting photographer specialising in capturing the personality and grandeur of indigenous people and places. For 20 years he has covered the face of the earth in his intense, personal and aesthetically moving style that has won him several prestigious awards. He has made the road his home and most of the time you can find him traveling with his camera somewhere between the Sahara and the Himalayas.