I am 150 feet down an illegal mineshaft in Ghana. The air is thick with dust and heat. The lack of oxygen makes it hard to breathe. The brush of sweaty bodies passing me in the darkness reveals the activity in the shaft. I can hear soft murmurs of miners talking, but mostly the shaft is a cacophony of men coughing and stone being broken with primitive tools.
Like the others, I wear a cheap, flickering flashlight strapped to my head with a tattered elastic band so I can see the slick tree branches holding up the sides of the three-foot-square hole dropping hundreds of feet into the earth. My camera dangles from my neck as I grasp the branches with my feet and hands while descending. Adrenaline coarses through me when my hand slips, and I suddenly remember the slave I met days before who lost his grip when the mixture of exhaustion and sweat had gotten the best of him. He fell countless feet down the shaft.
As I sit in my home today, those very men are still deep in a hole, risking their lives – and often dying