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Orpaillage, deep way out

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Gold mines in Burkina Faso

The great food crises have many faces in Africa. In Burkina Faso, it can be seen one of these sad paradigms of the human incoherence. All along the territory the handcrafted and illegal mines of gold multply, an activity  known as orpaillage. It’s calculated that it can be up to seven hundred settlements of such type around the country. Most, arisen in the last few years.


Big camps without services and under precarious conditions,  grow up close to the mines, inhabited by families who give up their lands,  due to lack of resources to harvest  or because of  long drought periods.


Men who spend lots of hours in the dark and in a dense and unbreathable atmosphere, deep inside at dozens of  meters underneath. Exposed dangerously to  cyanide and  mercury  used to separate  gold from  stone and dust. With a scanty food, based on to – a short of millet or sorghum paste - once or twice a day. Submitted to the daily risk of get buried alive or  suffering serious accidents.


Many children and teenagers leave the school to go into the mines, with the hope to find the  longed seam of gold that makes them rich. A kind of feverish desire that  illuminates the present but get dark the future.


The process to obtaining  gold is absolutely hand made, with very rudimentary tools. First, the stone from the subsoil is extracted through the trou - hole-, is punctured and  ground up to turning it into thin sand. Later, it’ s washed, up to get a mixture of dust and particles of visible gold to simple sight. Using the lethal mercury, without protection,  gold and  dust separates finally.


The gold will come to the necks and  wrists of people in the rich countries, will feed egos and will enrich generously  multinational trade companies. Those who extract this valued metal from the bowels of the Earth,  will have to conform with a few coins to scrape. Sometimes just food in exchange for gold.

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