The wildcat goldminers doomed by their toxic trade – by Tim Cocks and David Lewis (Reuters U.S. – July 24, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

High gold prices and cheap equipment are luring millions in Africa to informal mines that feed, and slowly poison, them

BAWDIE, Ghana – A few years after coming as a teenager to this Ghanaian town to prospect for gold, Yaw Ngoha had made enough cash to marry his sweetheart and build a house with a porch, to which he would later add a flat-screen TV and satellite dish.

So when a town elder invited a doctor to talk to miners about the hazards of wildcat mining, “nobody listened,” said the 36-year-old, sitting on a wooden bench on his porch in a lush banana grove. “We needed money.”

Since Ngoha started prospecting in the early 2000s, more and more people like him have helped Ghana grow into Africa’s biggest gold producer. Across the continent and beyond, millions have turned to the trade. Few are deterred by the risks.

Ngoha’s friends and family members started to sicken and die, but he told himself this had nothing to do with the amount of dust they’d been breathing in or the toxins – including mercury and nitric acid – they used to extract the gold.

One morning in 2016, Ngoha started coughing up blood. It felt like his airways were collapsing. His doctor treated him for tuberculosis. The drugs didn’t help, but he carried on working.

“I said to myself the symptoms were the result of a certain wrongdoing,” he told a reporter during a visit in April. “Maybe someone has gone to a medicine man, or someone has gone to steal from someone, and we have all been cursed.”

For the rest of this article: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/gold-africa-poison/

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