Not too long ago a Mexican newspaper had a photo of a very young worker, struggling to lift a heavy chunk of cement for a glitzy new hotel in Cancun. The story was accompanied by a survey of workers that said many of the child-laborers were indigenous, were barely educated, and were barely surviving. This is what good labor reporting does. Put stories in context and the context reaches beyond the convinced few.
With wealth virtually dropping from skies in some parts of the world, children are working harder today across the globe so some may have more than every before. The Associated Press offered a very worthwhile look at what’s happening in the gold mines of Africa. Here’s their story:
TENKOTO, Senegal: A reef of gold buried beneath this vast, parched grassland arcs across some of the world’s poorest countries. Where the ore is rich, industrial mines carve it out. Where it is not, the poor sift the earth.
These hard-working miners include many thousands of children. They work long hours at often dangerous jobs in hundreds of primitive mines scattered through the West African bush. Some are as young as 4 years old.
In a yearlong investigation, The Associated Press visited six of these bush mines in three West African countries and interviewed more than 150 child miners. The agency’s journalists watched as gold mined by children was bought by itinerant traders. And through interviews and customs documents, they tracked gold from these mines on a 4,800-kilometer, or 3,000-mile, journey to Mali’s capital city and then on to Switzerland, where it entered the world market.
Most bush mines are little more than holes in the ground, but there are thousands of them “