Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: Midas in Burkina Faso

Image by Larry C. Price. Burkina Faso, 2013.


Over the last two decades, Burkina Faso has emerged as Africa’s fourth largest exporter of gold. But instead of bringing prosperity to this desperately poor West African nation, the mineral wealth beneath the surface has created an ever-expanding army of child laborers who routinely work 12-hour shifts in appallingly dangerous conditions. Pulitzer Center grantee Larry Price documents the plight of some of these children in his piece for the PBS NewsHour.

“It's estimated that 30 percent of small-scale miners are teenagers or younger. I actually saw two and three-year-olds working alongside their mothers in the gold fields. I photographed children as young as seven, working in deep shafts 150 feet below the surface,” Larry told Imaging Resource. “The situation in Burkina is very bleak, desperate almost. The climate is very hot and dry so there is a lot of dust, especially around the gold camps where some of the ore-crushing operations occur. A lot of kids in the area contract respiratory diseases due to lack of protective gear.”

Larry, twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for photography, first became concerned about this issue in the 1980s when he saw children toiling in the cane fields of Nicaragua during that country’s civil war. His current project for the Pulitzer Center focuses on child labor in the gold mining industry around the world. “My pictures certainly have a point of view but they're also real. This stuff is happening right now and I'm trying to communicate this fact,” he says.


The United Nations established World Population Day, which is now marked on July 11 each year, to draw attention to the worrisome consequences of unchecked population growth. And the latest demographic projections, released to coincide with this year’s World Population Day, are indeed worrisome. As Pulitzer Center grantee Ken Weiss reports in the Los Angeles Times science blog, “The world’s population is on track to reach 9.6 billion by midcentury and nearly 11 billion by 2100, which is 700 million more than was projected two years ago.”

Ken notes that “Nigeria, the West African nation slightly larger than Texas, is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s third-most populous country by 2050. The size of its population may rival that of China by the end of the century, unless something dramatic happens.” In a follow-up piece, he notes that one solution is relatively straightforward and simple: provide access to contraceptives to women in poor countries.

Ken, another Pulitzer Prize winner, has been following population issues since the publication of “Beyond 7 Billion,” his groundbreaking 2012 series for the Los Angeles Times. He will continue to look into the causes and consequences of rapid population growth as part of a long-term project for the Pulitzer Center.

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