In some places not far from where I live someone found gold not so long ago. This has lead to a incredible inflow of hopefuls souls into these places, which were just nowheres in the dust before. The gold-fever has led to the creation of entire temporary villages, where houses are made of straw, but you can get everything you need, just as in a regular town: food, water, a spare tire for your bike, a radio, and even a haircut.
The circumstances in which gold is dug for are daunting and dangerous. Holes of up to 40-50 metres deep are dug straight down into the ground, with primitive manpowered tools. It can become incredibly hot in these holes and air to breath can be scarce, so makeshift airshafts are used to prevent suffocation. There are no ladders, people climb in and out by crevices in the walls of the holes. One person digs and sends up the loose gravel in bags to his companions outside. Sometimes a horizontal shaft is dug from this hole. These are very dangerous, and often collapse, as tools and material for preventing collapse are scarce.
The gravel hauled up can hold indications of gold or gold itself. It is brought to someone on the site who has a machine to grind to dust, and then it is washed to find the gold itself. You need to pay the person with the grinding machine, and you need to buy the water to wash it with, as there are no wells or other water sources nearby (thus this has led to the creation of a small industry of people fetching water and selling it). Thus the whole activity is seldom profitable and only very rarely does someone find his fortune. But those few who do keep the hopes of all the others alive. Imagine, find gold one afternoon and be able to buy your own motorcycle and your own house on the spot, and having the means of taking two wives at once!
Digging for gold is dangerous, and only estimates exist of how many people die in these holes. Some people say the only way to know is to count the pairs of slippers left at the sides of holes with no one to pick them up, or the number of bicycles gathering dust because the owner has disappeared....
Digging for gold is something which attracts young people, young men leaving their villages to try their luck in these dangerous sites. In some villages you will find only old people and children who are left. It undermines the social structure and the development of these villages, and it makes it difficult for our work as well. How to work with developing a village when the whole active population is absent?