Thousands of children are working in the artisanal gold mines of Tanzania. These child labourers are exposed to great dangers, ranging from collapsing mine shafts and toxic gases to injuries caused by tools. Musa Simoni, a 15-year-old boy, is one of these children.
‘I sit in the burning sun all day, hammering gold ore into small pieces. I'm not allowed to take a break and eat or drink anything at all during the day. I only eat when I get home in the evenings. Sometimes I take some dried sweet potato with me to still the worst pangs of hunger while I keep hammering away.'
Crushing gold ore with a hammer is very hard work. My hands hurt all the time. I have a lot of problems with the dust and flying fragments produced by the crushing. And the noise made by the crushing drums; I feel like I can no longer hear properly. My work is no fun at all. The only reason I do it is because I have no other way of making money.
I live in a hut together with my grandmother. We do not have a toilet, running water or electricity. We came here two years ago because nobody would help us in the village where I was born. Not even my father. My parents separated a long time ago. My father has remarried and spends all his money on alcohol. I don't know where my mother is. I haven't seen her since I was two years old. That was the year when my parents separated and I moved in with my grandmother.
When I turned twelve, I started to work - in the weekends at first and after school. But I had to work more and more often to pay for food and the rent. And so I went to school less and less. On my fourteenth birthday, my grandmother decided to move to Kahama where she has relatives. But even they don't help us. So now I work in the mines. My grandmother came to work with me for one day, also to crush gold ore. But now I always come here alone.
Every day, a different boss takes me on to crush the gold ore. I walk to the mines in the morning looking for work and ask around until I find somebody who needs me. How much I earn every day depends on the boss. Normally I earn 3,000 Tanzanian shillings (1.23 euros), but if I'm lucky, I earn 4,000 shillings (1.64 euros). Sometimes, I only earn 2,000 shillings (0.83 euros) for a whole day's work.
I work seven days a week from eight in the morning to about five o'clock in the afternoon. Then I still have to walk an hour to get home. But there are days when I feel sick as soon as I wake up in the morning. My whole body hurts. When I feel like that I stay at home for one or two days to rest. But I soon have to get back to work as otherwise we will starve.’