children of gold


Gold mining is extremely dangerous work for children. Yet still today, thousands are found in the small scale gold mines of Burkina Faso. In the tunnels and mineshaft they risk death from explosions, rock falls, and tunnel collapse. They breathe air filled with dust and sometimes toxic gases. Above 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 carrying bags of mud on their heads or backs to sieving and washing sites. In all mining sites, there is risk of falling down open shafts or into pits that are scattered around the areas. Like adults, children suffer the effects of noise and vibration, poor ventilation and lighting, exhaustion and overexertion.


But children are particularly vulnerable to exposure to dust and chemicals because their systems are still developing. Gold mining stands out from other forms of small-scale mining for an additional grave hazard: the mixing of mercury with the crushed ore or sediments to separate out the gold. Mercury is a highly toxic metal and is very often mishandled by small-scale miners.


burkina faso 2010