In Tanzania everyday thousands of people risk their lives in small scale mining pits in hope to find gold. These mines are completely unsecured and up to 100 meters deep.
Many young people from all over the country are leaving their families in hope for a better life. They are working in 12 hour shifts and risk their health, among those are also many children that are used as unpaid workers to work in the small shafts. As the workers live far away from their family structures, prostitution and HIV rates have rocketed up in recent years.
The biggest threat though arrives from the use of mercury. It is sold illegally from hospitals, military or even chemical shops. As workers are using the material without any protection or knowledge of its danger they are exposed to the toxic liquid every day at high dosage to extract gold from the soil. To get rid of the mercury amalgam, it gets heated what can cause severe intoxication, lung problems and problems for the nervous system. As many women are working with mercury at home they are particularly in danger as the material can arrive the blood system of their children in case of pregnancy. This can cause serious physical disabilities.
Tanzania has become Africa’s third largest exporteur for gold in recent years. Unfortunately the local population is not benefitting from this development as international mining companies as Acacia Mining, Barrick Gold and Anglo Gold Ashanti are hardly paying any taxes or refuse to pay taxes at all. Tanzania’s president John Magufuli has set a deadline to end all old contracts and even ban all exports from those who are not willing to pay taxes. This is definitely an urgent and much needed step that can be a sign of hope also for other african countries. For now the export ban has led to an increase of more illegal mining activities.
About Claudio Verbano
Claudio Verbano is a freelance documentary photographer based in Germany and Italy. He is specialized in reportage and documentary photography. He covers news, social topics and personal projects. It is always his main goal to be in close contact to the people he is working with to understand their situation. The emphasis of his work explores the impact of social and economic injustice on communities and people and tries to raise awareness for their situations. Furthermore he tries to find the motivation that drives the people to carry on. [Official Website]
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