BURKINA FASO: Ganzourgou, gold mining and child exploitation

[26 January 2012] - A dozen traditional gold mining sites have appeared in recent years in the province of Ganzourgou. Gold panners from all over flock there to work the sites, most often living in the greatest promiscuity, without any infrastructure for sanitation and with no access to public basic services.

The miners migrate according to the discovery of new veins of gold, usually moving there from the rural areas of Burkina Faso as well as from neighbouring countries (Togo, Benin, Ghana). Between one quarter and one third of them are under 18.

Prey to exploitation

Thousands of youngsters live and work on these sites. Never having been to school or having left early, these kids are utilised throughout the operational chain (labouring in the tunnels, crushing stone, work done in the mills, cutting stones, washing ore with mercury or cyanide, carrying water).

Their work is done without the least consideration for safety or hygiene, exposing the youngsters to serious physical dangers and all sorts of violence. Most of the kids seeking gold in the ‘holes’ are boys. They dig, crush, and carry, and face great risks on a daily basis. The young girls are responsible for carrying water, crushing stones and rebuilding. Some of them look after their younger siblings whilst the mothers are at work, instead of attending lessons. Owing to various superstitions linking sex to finding gold, the little girls also become victims of sexual exploitation or prostitution on the sites.

Free children from exploitation

Terre des hommes (Tdh), backed by the UNICEF and TaiwanICDF, fights to improve the system of protection for these youngsters, who risk becoming – or who are already – victims of exploitation, abuse and maltreatment.

Tdh works in close collaboration with the decentralised services of the State (social, educational and sanitation services) and with local communities to stop the exploitation of these young people, and to reach a stage where the youngsters already exploited can catch a glimpse of a decent future. By January 1st, 2012, 3,400 children and their mothers had benefited from the intervention of Terre des hommes on 10 gold-working sites. 650 small children were put into day-nurseries and over 1,800 older ones now go to school. Some 450 adolescents have been withdrawn from the workings and are now getting job training. Tdh also offers 500 teenagers literacy tuition and activities to enable them to generate income in other ways, so that they can soon get out of the chain of exploitation.

Already in 2003, Terre des hommes was able to release the children working in the granite quarry of Pissy. Since 2009, the Tdh delegation has been intervening to help the kids identified on six mining sites in Ganzourgou (Pousghin, Nonbsin, Kagtanga, Boena, Wayalguin and Kietenga). Finally, in September 2011, Tdh extended its task to three other mining locations in the Sahel region (Essakan, Bani et Goro. 


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