Continued from page 1

“When the police come, we run away. We’ve never gotten caught and we don’t want to give them a reason to catch us,” said 45-year-old Daniel Mazibuko who has three children and a wife. “It’s illegal, but I still do it because I’m suffering and if there’s no food at home I must do this job.”

“Sometimes I make 100 to 150 rand ($11-$17) per day if I’m lucky. In my best week I’ve made 500 rand ($57),” he said.

On a recent day he was working with 21-year-old Siphelele Dyasi, who smoked a cigarette as he poured heavy buckets of water into a yellow plastic bin and shook it to separate the soil. The miners sometimes endanger their health by using mercury to extract the gold.

“There’s no other choice, you go into it knowing the risks,” said Dyasi, who came to Johannesburg from the distant Eastern Cape of South Africa after his father died and his mother couldn’t provide for him and his brothers and sisters.

Dyasi and Mazibuko were trying their luck outside the Tudor Shaft mine, not far from the Durban Deep mine. At least five makeshift mining chutes could be seen among dusty fields of rock, orange dirt and black rocks near pools of water, that the miners use and recycle in their prospecting.

“You’re never sure what you’ll get. For example this week I only got 150 rand ($17) which I used to buy a small tin of milk, a packet of nappies (diapers), a small bag of maize, paraffin, fish oil and a bit of meat but it has all finished already,” Dyasi said.

“I hope to get something today so I can bring some food home.”