Gold Mine Business Ushers in Children, Teens Across Tanzania

Gold Mine Business Ushers in Children, Teens Across Tanzania

From Aljazeera

Although he has only recently become a teenager, Richard Paul does the work of an adult. He swings a pick-axe into the red earth and carries clumps of clay with his bare hands at a makeshift gold mine in southwest Tanzania.

He seldom sees the inside of a classroom, but this 13-year-old knows that mining is a risky job. He was buried when a pit wall collapsed above him and has breathed in the toxic mercury fumes that are released during gold extraction.

“One day, while I was digging, my friend told me to get out of the pit. I told him to wait a minute because I wanted to finish up,” said the teen. “That’s when the mine collapsed on me. I fell down and was knocked unconscious. My friends dug me out of the rubble and took me to the hospital. I was unconscious till 4am.”

Paul mines for gold alongside other children and adult laborers in the Mbeya region, which is famous for a gold rush at the beginning of the 20th century. His family has left him to fend for himself and this work enables him to buy textbooks for school.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says he is one among thousands of children who toil at unlicensed and informal gold mines across the west and south of the poor but rapidly-developing country of 48 million people.

Health risks

During visits to 11 improvised mines last year, researchers found children as young as eight working in hazardous conditions. They dig and drill in deep, unstable pits, work underground for shifts of up to 24 hours and carry heavy sacks of gold ore.

Read more at aljazeera.com