The work was selected as an award-winner at the World Press Photo Awards 2016. We were able to catch up with Krivic in person at Amsterdam—watch the full video interview below.

What sort of a future does a miner in northeastern Burkina Faso have? As he breathes the black earth full of poisonous lead, day in and day out, bringing bags full of stones from the depths of the incredibly narrow shafts of the artisan gold mines, some up to 60 meters deep?

Anything that keeps him from thinking about today or tomorrow.

While grinding the ore, heavy metals attack his lungs, find their way into the dust under his feet and into his drinking water. The mercury and cyanide that he needs to extract the gold in turn destroy his body. Further, they permanently poison the soil that he depends on for sustenance.

About 15,000 miners work in the area just around Bani, a city of Burkina Faso. A third of them are children. They are the children of the mines. Most of them have never been to school. For many of them, the mines are their only home. The International Labor Organization considers mining one of the worst forms of child labor owing to the immediate risks and long-term health problems it presents. On top of back-breaking manual labor, each child faces exposure to dust, toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Sometimes it can take up to two weeks to find just the equivalent amount of gold used in one smartphone. Government-approved dealers undoubtedly turn a blind eye to the children of the mines who suffer and die dreaming of their very own “El Dorado” for the sake of our smartphones.

—Matjaz Krivic

This photographic series documenting gold miners in Burkina Faso was selected as a finalist in the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2015. Discover more inspiring work from all 31 of the winners and finalists. It was also recognized in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016.

In addition to his award-winning still photographs, Krivic also produced this powerful multimedia piece on the same subject. It was shown at the Palm Springs Photo Festival, the Athens Photo Festival and Head On in Australia.

Editors’ Note: To learn how you can get involved with efforts of getting children out of gold mines, visit UNICEF’s page and support The Convention on the Rights of the Child.