In Pictures

In pictures: Guinea's artisanal gold miners

Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption Outside the dusty, one-road town of Kouremale on the border of Guinea and Mali, underground gold deposits have attracted thousands of young men looking to make a living from artisanal mining.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption Conditions are tough and dangerous. In November last year an artisanal gold mine collapsed, killing at least 14 people. Accidents are common. It is also estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 children work in Mali's artisanal mines, often from a young age.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption The precious ore is hacked and shovelled from pits and tunnels before being transported to another site where the gold is extracted, often with the unregulated use of highly toxic mercury.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption Many of the miners are migrants from Mali to the north and other West African countries. Some roadside towns in the area have taken on the appearance of refugee camps, with miners' houses built of sticks and blue tarpaulin sheets.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption Women engage in the same physical labour as men - using sledgehammers to break boulders into smaller rocks, shovelling earth, and hauling buckets of gravel.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption The mine extends for several square kilometres of barren, cratered earth. Thousands work here, and a whole local economy has emerged, with vendors hawking goat meat and soft drinks, carpenters making tools, and motorbike-taxi drivers transporting the workers.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption Miners take a break in a complex of hand-dug tunnels and caves in the rock. "This is my Africa," says another man nearby, pointing into the pitch black shaft where his colleague shovels out the gold-laden earth.
Image copyright Tommy Trenchard
Image caption At the end of the day a young miner jogs home through the bush. Despite the risks involved in working here, in a part of the world with massive youth unemployment and extreme poverty, there is no shortage of labour.