In the gold mines of the DRC, children and women are exhausted to find “the right vein”

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Espoir N. does not know how long he has worked at the Kadumwa gold mine in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Blame it on those days that stretch from sunrise to sunset. At a frantic pace, his back loaded with bags of earth, the teenager descends the sandy slopes of the mine. At an altitude of 2,000 meters, it has to take the unstable spans which overhang the shafts, before ending its course below, at the ” pool “, where the sand is washed away to make the gold nuggets emerge.

Espoir N. claims to be 18 years old but seems ten older. ” One day, he said, I will leave Kadumwa. I just have to find the right vein. “ In the best case, the teenager earns 40,000 Congolese francs (17 euros) daily. Like him, more than five thousand people work, with the sole strength of their arms, around the 600 shafts of this artisanal mine, located in Luhwindja, in the province of South Kivu.

Even the police come here to seek their fortune. That day, they are two. “They have nothing to do here! “, vociferates when he sees them Amos Chungulira, the “vice-president” of the diggers, also in charge of “human resources”. This dry and energetic man does not fear the armed agents who have come “Racketeering” minors. “They must leave us unconditionally! We don’t want any problems here ”, he says to his subordinates, from his dismal office planted in the heart of the mining area. The police finally turn back, without saying a word.

“For a few tickets”

Clean up the practices within the mine, the “vice-president” of the diggers is keen on it. But his fight comes up against serious obstacles. Hood pulled down to protect himself from the scorching sun, Victorin (the first name has been changed), a little boy with a face yellowed by the sand, with difficulty crushes a few stones extracted at the bottom of a well. His presence, illegal because of his young age, hardly moves the person in charge of “human resources”. “He had to sneak up here without his parents’ consent to win a few tickets”, he advances.

A banal scene in the mines of the country where, according to theNGO Governance and Peace Observatory, children represent 8% of the workforce. In mines alone of cobalt, a mineral used in the manufacture of smartphones and electric batteries, an Amnesty International report estimated their number to 40,000.

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