Mali, Africa's third largest gold producer, has recorded a drop in exports, partly due to decreased artisanal mining. Industrial mining is also set to drop to 44.9 tonnes in 2015 from 45.9 last year. Ciara Lee reports.
It's a dirty business but prospecting in southern Mali can be lucrative. Gold is the country's top foreign exchange earner. And Mali is Africa's third biggest gold producer. A gram sells for around 28 dollars - that's a lot of money in one of the world's poorest states. Awa Sangare works at the Finkolo mine everyday. (SOUNDBITE) (Bambara) AWA SANGARÉ, MINER, SAYING: "I sell the gold to an agent and with the money I get I am able to provide for myself and my children until the rainy season. Then I work in the fields." Some of these prospectors turned to gold mining in 2012 after losing their jobs due to economic sanctions following an army coup. Others gave up an education (SOUNDBITE) (Bambara) KAJATOU SANGARÉ, MINER, SAYING: "I left school because I was forced into marriage. I came here to earn a bit of money for my clothes and personal needs." (SOUNDBITE) (Bambara) SIAKA SANOGO, CHILD MINER, SAYING: "I am in grade 4 at school. But I am also working in the mine so I can make some money to buy clothes." But last year the government made this sort of mining illegal during the rainy season to prevent accidents. As a result exports have dropped nearly 64 percent - compared with only a slight fall in industrial mining. The government wants that trend to continue, by urging miners to return to agriculture. Reclaiming the land for crops could boost nutrition in a country which is often ravaged by drought. It could also stop Mali needing millions of dollars of international aid every year.