Gold mining: the search for common ground

Within any gold mining district you will find a wide range of people. 

At a glance, they may appear very different — they use different tools, work in different conditions, and operate within different confines of the law. If you trust the headlines, you might believe that their differences define them and that their story is one of conflict, pollution and exploitation. 

But read between the lines and you will find they have more in common than you thought, and that their story is one of joint humanity, shared values and mutual hopes for a good life. 

From the geologist at her desk to the miner down the pit, and from the mining officer to the village elder, large-scale miners, small-scale miners and government workers alike are people. 

They are fathers, sons, mothers, daughters — working to provide for their families and secure a better future for themselves and their loved ones. 

To better understand the wide range of people who depend on gold mining, IIED travelled to Geita District, northwest Tanzania, to talk to some of them. 

This is the human story of gold mining...

"My name is Levocatus Saidi Bujiku. I am 22 years old and I have been working as an artisanal miner for about two years."
"I am also a son, a father and a husband. My own son, Kevin, lives with my mother far away. My biggest hope is to give him education so he can uplift me as his parent. I pray to God that I can make enough money to take care of my family."

More than a miner

Wellington Moses: at work and at home 
"My name is Wellington Moses. I am 41 years old and have been a dump truck operator at a large-scale mine for nearly ten years. I work the biggest dump truck — 250 tons — in Tanzania: it's a beautiful machine."
"I am also a husband and a father. I am not a poor man, I am not a rich man; but I have a comfortable standard of life with my wife and three children. My hope for the future is that my children get enough school."
"My name is Mlindwa Maganga. I am 41 years old. I am the chairman of Mawemeru village and as part of that role, I deal with small-scale mining licences."
"I am also a farmer, a small-scale miner, a husband and a father. I have a wife and three children, aged 13, 7 and 1. Most of my income goes on school fees — it's important for me that my children get the best in education so they can be in a better position in this life and in this world."
Chairman Mlindwa Mlindwa, 41, finds fulfilment in the education of his children
"My name is Betty Bernard Kakulu. I am 33 years old and I come from Bukoba, 300km to the north of here. I have been a geologist at a large-scale gold mine for six and a half years."
"I am also a sister and a daughter. Forty per cent of my salary every month goes to support my siblings and mother, who live far away. My mother is my everything. I dream of having a family some day."
"My name is Simon Sebastian Nsangano. I am 66 years old and have been a gold miner for 50 years."
"I am also a farmer and a family man. I work in my garden and then go to my mine pits. My wife recently died but I have my four children. I dream of giving my family a better life. I work day after day but the results are poor. If I had money I would send all my sons to high school."
"My name is Fortunatus Waziri and I am 22 years old. In 2009 I travelled the 100km from Kahama to Mawemeru; and I have been working here in a small-scale gold mine ever since."
Gold miner Fortunatus Waziri, 22, in Geita gold mine
"I am also a father. My two children live with my grandmother far away. I send them money whenever I can but it is my dream to get big money and build a house for them. As I mine, night and day I fight for my children's lives."
Fortunatus sends the money he earns away for his children

Keen to learn more? 

Watch the full 15-minute video feature on 'Gold mining: the search for common ground'...

IIED's work on small and large-scale mining supports multi-stakeholder dialogue, promotes local voices and explores innovations that help deliver a more inclusive and accountable mining sector – with empowered local communities, enlightened decision-makers and sensitivity to the rights and responsibilities of all stakeholders. 

More details:

Photojournalist: Brian Sokol/Panos Pictures

Editor: Matt Wright/IIED