Ivory CoastThe village of Booré, in central Ivory Coast, has become a mecca for illegal gold miners, attracting them from as far as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea.

The discovery of the gold comes after people living in and around the village noticed how the rains brought to surface a few gold nuggets. Since then, gold mining has replaced farm work as an alternative source of income.

“In one week, I earn the equivalent of a year’s cocoa harvest,” says cocoa planter turned gold panner, Octave Kouamee Konan.

While the miners work, large ditches of overturned red earth decorate the site. Konan openly regrets the destruction of an orchard.

“We were forced to do it,” says the father of five children, seated on a felled tree trunk. “We had to choose between dying of hunger or feeding the family.”

In the last few years, the region has been hit by drought and farming no longer makes as much money as it use to. This has also left the farm workers desperate, traveling far distances and taking up illegal mining to put food on their tables.

The government recently launched a programme that resulted in the closure of 200 illegal gold mining operations in the north and the centre of the country, but that has not stopped the influx of  “peasant-miners”.

The local residents are keen for an established mining company to take over the operation of these unlicensed mines as they believe this will formally regulate and control the mining activity in the area.