Burkina Faso has witnessed a gold boom in recent years, becoming the fourth largest producer of gold in the world. However, the increased production has also led to an increase of child laborers working in dangerous conditions in small, artisanal mines. In just a quarter century, one of the world's poorest countries has transformed itself into Africa's fourth-largest producer of gold. But at what cost to the children who labor in the mines? Landlocked, Burkina Faso is wedged between Mali and Niger to the northwest and east, and borders Ghana on the north. Although large foreign countries had mined Burkina Faso gold for almost half a century, it wasn't until the famines of the 1980s forced families off their farms that artisanal or small-scale mining took root. Since then, thousands have migrated to the gold fields, abandoning their agrarian roots to toil in the small-scale mining operations that dot the countryside.
To maximize profits, entire families work. And this means putting children to work as child laborers. Gold fever shows no sign of ending. Data published in 2012 by the United States Department of Labor estimate that almost half of all children in Burkina Faso younger than 18 work. Of these, many children toil in the agriculture and mining sectors where they are exposed to chemical hazards, hazardous machinery and heavy labor.