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Illegal gold mines risk lives of young people in Ivory Coast

Young people in Ivory Coast are being lured into the dangerous gold mining trade but charity Tearfund is supporting projects providing them with a way out

23 Feb 2023

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorestIn the town of Kokumbo, 140 miles from Abidjan, many head to the mines in the hope of higher wages as traditional agricultural roles decline.

Innocent, 30, was ten when he started work in the gold mines washing sand. However, the miners were at risk from toxic gas, as well as being trapped and even killed when shafts collapse. The mining has also contaminated the community’s water and led to other dangers, including prostitution in the surrounding community.

Innocent stopped working at the mines after hearing about his friends who got trapped. Four were rescued but two died.

Innocent had started going to church in 2019 after being invited by the local pastor and when he was invited to join Tearfund’s partner project, he began to have hope for his future.

He learned skills to help him farm cocoa and cassava crops. He also received business-skills training which encouraged him to save money and develop a plan to open a hardware store.

Richard Yao, Tearfund’s Country Director for Ivory Coast, said: “What we are doing in Ivory Coast is working through the local church and partners to address the issues of illegal mining. Through the partner we train young people in entrepreneurship and teach them how to start a business on their own, supported with a small grant, so that they can change their life.

“We also work alongside the local church who help young people to understand the dangers of illegal mining and show them that they need to get out of it by starting their own business with the support of our partners and the church. Through this they can make a living and also transform their lives.”

Innocent said: “I'm going to work hard in order to open my DIY store and I need people to pray to God for me that one day I will be successful.” He also hopes to provide for his family and have the means to send his two children to school.

Graeme McMeekin, Head of Church & Supporter Engagement at Tearfund, said: “The young people in Kokumbo have been shown a new way which has opened up opportunities for them to change their lives and realise their full potential. Like Innocent, they have had their eyes opened to the possibilities that exist outside the dangerous mining industry and instead they can have hope for the future.”

More information about Tearfund's Lent appeal can be found at:


For further information or interview requests contact Matt Cooper on 07929 353 530 or [email protected] or for out of hours media enquiries please call 07929 339813.

Notes to editors:

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. We tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. We believe an end to extreme poverty is possible. Tearfund is also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit


Credit: Thiombiano Dioyadibi Emmanuel Benjamin/Tearfund

Photos may be downloaded from: Password: lEnt4p9eAl2023!

A man stands next to a heap of sand, moving the sand to a wheelbarrow

Innocent (30) is a mason (brickmaker) and farmer. Here he is moving sand to make bricks. He received training on business entrepreneurship from Tearfund partners and is now planning to open a hardware store.

A man wearing a white top stands looking at the camera

Innocent in Siemkro village, Central Ivory Coast.

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