The Price of Gold

Men search for gold in a small scale mine. Thousands of Zimbabweans have crossed into neighbouring Mozambique in search of work, and many have turned to gold mining. Photo by Robin Hammond

Exhausted and caked in mud, they plough wearily on searching toxic water for traces of gold. Some look west from where they fled, across the border to Zimbabwe; towards home. There, the life of miners are even harder. Here in Mozambique, at least, there are no soldiers standing over them with assault rifles.

Whole families have crossed the border to join the hunt for treasure. Zimbabwe has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, the discovery of gold can literally save lives. But the search destroys lives too. The diggers handle toxic mercury to extract gold from the red earth. They risk suffocation at the bottom of fragile mine shafts that collapse burying occupants all too often.

A few will find enough gold to change their lives, but most will not. Many will become ill and some will pay the ultimate price in their search for gold.

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